Former Los Angeles Lakers coach Byron Scott appeared on ESPN's The Jump with host Rachel Nichols on Wednesday and said he thought he would be given one more season at the helm of the team's rebuilding efforts, per Baxter Holmes of ESPN.com.
Scott suggested on the show that there was something of a verbal agreement in place with management that he would at least get one more year, per Holmes:
When you have conversations with guys, you take them for their word. And that's what I did. Our conversation a couple of years ago was, "This is a rebuilding process. It's going to take two to three years. It's going to be very tough. Are you OK with that?" And as I stated, I said, "Yeah I'm OK with it. Are you guys OK with it? If you can deal with it, I can deal with it."
Alas, the Lakers elected not to pick up the team option for the 2016-17 campaign and hired Golden State Warriors assistant Luke Walton to take over coaching duties.
Holmes also pointed out that Scott previously appeared on The Dan Patrick Show and said he was "blindsided" by the Lakers' decision not to bring him back.
The coach clarified that comment during his appearance on ESPN's The Jump: "And so when I said I was 'blindsided' by it, I figured I at least had another year to get this thing turned around, and I was preparing for that and looking forward to next year. ... That kind of surprised me, shocked me a little bit."
Nichols discussed Scott's comments on Twitter after the interview:
Scott may have been "blindsided," but the Lakers were a mere 17-65 this season and 21-61 in 2014-15 under his direction. The 17-65 record in 2015-16 was the worst mark in franchise history and the worst record in the Western Conference. Even for a team in rebuilding mode, those are not the type of numbers that help coaches keep their jobs.
What's more, there was also controversy about how effective Scott was at developing the younger players on the roster in a season when the team was not expected to win. Holmes shared the former coach's comments from November in a separate piece when Scott said, "I'm always thinking about trying to win. The development part comes secondary to that."
The Lakers will now turn to Walton, and Scott had positive things to say about the new coach on Wednesday, per Holmes: "I love [Walton]. I think Luke's a great guy. I had a chance to coach Luke in Cleveland, and I think Luke will be a very good coach in this league."
Walton has a tall task ahead of him if Los Angeles wants to quickly compete for playoff positioning after a couple of lackluster campaigns. Walton understands the pressure that comes with coaching the Lakers, since he played there from 2003 to 2012 and helped the team win titles in 2008-09 and 2009-10.
He is also used to winning on the sidelines as a Warriors assistant coach the past two years, leading the team to a 39-4 start in 2015-16 while head coach Steve Kerr was recovering from back surgery.
Fortunately for Walton and Lakers fans, there are some young pieces to work with in Russell, Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson. The franchise could also get a favorable draft pick, although it goes to the Philadelphia 76ers if it falls outside the top three.
Plus, the team is finally moving forward next season. For as great as Kobe Bryant was throughout his career, the entire 2015-16 campaign was essentially just one big going-away party for him as he visited different arenas for the last time on his retirement tour. It is difficult for younger players to develop in a situation where the 37-year-old veteran led the team in field-goal attempts at 16.9 shots per night.
Not only have the Lakers missed the playoffs the last three seasons, but they also haven't even reached the 30-win mark since 2012-13. They will need some luck at the draft lottery in order for them to keep their pick, and they'll need their young players to take strides under Walton if they want to return to their winning ways.
Even if they don't land a superstar like George (Simmons added the qualifier "Not that they'd get him"), they have some building blocks and are outside of Bryant's shadow. Unfortunately for Scott, he won't be there for the rebuilding project's next phase.