Among a large sect of Lakers’ fans, Byron Scott is not held in the highest of regards as a coach. The former Showtime shooting guard is absolutely revered as a former great player who helped the team capture three championships as Magic’s backcourt mate, but when it comes to stewarding the ship from the sideline there are reasons to doubt him.
I have, admittedly, been one of these critics. There is no need to rehash it all in now, but his history in New Jersey, New Orleans, and Cleveland — especially how he exited those places — spoke a lot more to me than some of his early success in the first two of those stops or his knowledge of “what it means to be a Laker”. When he was hired, then, I spoke my mind on this. I still believe what I wrote at the time had merit and that is independent of the bad season he shepherded the team through last year.
Like any fair critique, though, one must look at the full picture and note where things were actually, you know, good. For all his faults, Byron did several things worthy of recognition, including getting players to play hard all year even with all the losses, getting some above expectations performances from more than one of his big men, and, of course, the management of Jordan Clarkson’s development from forgotten 2nd round pick early in the year to 1st Team All-Rookie by the end of the campaign*.
That last point is pretty important when put into the larger context of Byron’s past and the Lakers’ future. Every team Byron Scott has coached has had a fantastic point guard. From Jason Kidd, to Chris Paul, to Kyrie Irving, Scott has been blessed with an elite talent running the show. And while his relationship with Kidd ended poorly (though, to be fair, many of Kidd’s relationships with coaches ended poorly) and was established when Kidd was already an elite player, both Paul and Irving specifically cited Scott as being key in their development in the formative stages of their careers. Add this to how Clarkson, in his rookie season, came on under Scott and we’re establishing a track record.
This brings us to D’Angelo Russell. The incoming rookie point guard has a world of talent and will be burdened with enormous expectations. The Lakers passed up a highly rated big man to draft Russell, mostly on the vision they had of Russell becoming a star. Russell, then, is expected to develop into something special and, fair or not, be the player who can be the foreman building the bridge between the Kobe and post-Kobe eras.
Most of this will fall on Russell’s own talent and want to work, of course. Great players mostly become great because they have a natural talent base and an amazing work ethic. But, Scott, as the head coach, will need to be the man pressing the right buttons and pulling the right levers to help facilitate that development. Scott can, through daily guidance, coaching, communication, and management help place Russell on the proper trajectory to reach his ceiling.
No one is saying Scott has a magic point guard pixie dust or is some sort of point guard whisperer. There’s an argument to be made Byron was more fortunate to have the point guards he did than those guards were to have the coach they did. But, considering the credit Scott was given by these players and the success achieved with them, his influence should not be completely discounted either. With that, he will need to live up to the reputation he has established in this area and find a way to aid in the development of Russell.
His job, and the future of the Lakers, may just depend on it.
*There is a case to be made that Steve Nash had a strong hand in helping Clarkson play as well as he did last year. I would argue it is no coincidence Clarkson’s play improved right around the time it was reported he had started working out/getting some tutoring in sessions with Nash. So, it would be silly to ignore this variable when discussing Clarkson’s growth. However, Nash was not the head coach. Nash was not at practice every day, was not in every film session, and was not delivering advice and setting expectations for the young guard day in and day out. The man who was, however, was Byron Scott. And while there are ways to chip away at the idea of how much influence he had or how much he helped Clarkson, that cannot be chipped away to zero. It is important, then, to give credit where it is due. How much given will likely depend on how you feel about Byron Scott.
The nail in the coffin for B Scott has already been announced: the new Laker practice facility, will be state of the art and being built to accommodate cybermetric equipment. No way the team invests millions of dollars into technology that it head coach himself admits he is not found off. Conclusion: B Scott is a band aid. The long term solution is out there. My guess: Coach Kobe.
Byron was hired as a bridge coach. His job was to man the sidelines for the remainder of Kobe’s contract. He would possibly stay through what everyone felt would be a rough patch after Kobe’s retirement. Buy, in my mind he was never the guy that would help mold the next Lakers championship team or stay on the sidelines for 10 years. Unfortunately, the wheels fell off the wagon and the Lakers hit bottom with Kobe still on the roster.
Byron was hired as a bridge coach. His job was to man the sidelines for the remainder of Kobe’s contract. He would possibly stay through what everyone felt would be a rough patch after Kobe’s retirement. In my mind he was never the guy that would help mold the next Lakers championship team or stay on the sidelines for 10 years. Unfortunately, the wheels fell off the wagon and the Lakers hit bottom with Kobe still on the roster. His tenure here is going to cover a lot of L’s.
Byron will be here for two more years. It doesn’t make sense to bring in an established new coach if the Lakers are still losing 50+ games a year. Plus, Jim’s promise plays into this as well. What established coach would risk getting hired by a FO that may be out of a job in a year?
I think Scott stays the coach through the 16/17 season. That season covers Jim’s promise, the potential of Kobe playing one more year and set’s up the possibility for a new coach/FO when a big crop of free agents hits the market that summer.
Tibby will be the next laker coach after scott is relieved in 1-2 years
I see it this way:
When, & if, Coach Scott is relieved of his duties, which for most seems to be a forgone conclusion, say to Thibbs [or Coach Mamba? far out man, far out] after having shepherded a core of young, highly talented players, & possibly one future Star – heck, why not 2 Stars (Clarkson or Randle)?, after having gotten constantly strong efforts from his squad throughtout two or three entire NBA seasons regardless of where it finds itself in the standings, & after helping the Lakers increase its W totals year after year (yes, grant me a bit of wishful thinking; but I think most would agree it´s certainly plausible), then his tenure, right NOW, and in the future must be seen not only as highly positive, but, and perhaps this is more important, absolutely necessary to righting our Purple & Gold ship.
That is to say: everything Coach Scott has already done, and hopefully will be able to continue to do until he´s `moved out´, or not, is of utmost impotance to our team AT THIS VERY STAGE.
To reach the top of Mt. Everest, one must first CLIMB the long, steep, merciless mountain first.
So let´s not ignore what is at stake NOW, TODAY.
Coach Scott´s firm guidance for this most sensitive, and crucial, of times for our beloved organizaton is just what we need, no matter how brief his command may end up being.
Just wanted to give Myles a shout-out for his personal thoughts and precise observations on Chick´s lasting influence in the last thread – I was right there with you man. 🙂
J C says
Byron got the job for his Laker bloodline.
I think they’d have to fail horribly for him not to at least be invited to return for at least one more year. I wish him the best. He seems like a decent fellow.
I don’t see Kobe becoming a coach when his playing days end. I think he’ll be a talented businessman. Not a team builder.
Darius Soriano says
Considering your history of comments, I’m not surprised you feel this way. Haha. Thanks for reading.
LAKERS, HIRE JEFF VANGUNDY!
As a supporter of Scott, I have said all along he was going to be temporary and a caretaker. Whether that lasts one more season or two, remains to be seen. The main objective of his remaining time is to develop the youngsters. He is not going to invent some revolutionary offense, and he is not going to coach so people can have fun. He also did not construct a roster with 3 guys who dominate the ball, which “might” hinder the growth of the young guys. We can lambast him every game this year, because we are not looking at too many wins. For those who will blame this on Scott, I think your issue is with the FO. Their actions and inactions led us to change coaches and they constructed the roster. They obviously think Byron is the man for the job and that the roster is constructed correctly (it isn’t) so our young guys will have the best chance to improve. I agree that Byron is the man (for now) until the major shake up occurs.
– Coach Kobe? That will really help the Lakers attract top free agents in the future.
– Agree completely with all who saw it as very obvious that Coach Scott’s hiring as “temporary”, “band-aid”, “bridge”, “caretaker” or until Kob’s contract comes off the books and the Lakers can truly start to become relevant on the court again.
Craig W. says
It appears people have read what Darius has had to say, then simply fallen back on what they have been saying all along.
I took it that this thread was to review what Byron has done right and discuss it as it relates the the players we have now. If anyone disagrees with Darius’ take on the situation, then that deserves to be brought up.
I was not a big fan of bringing in Byron Scott. The long delay reflected, in my mind, the ‘fear of failure’ mindset that may have infected the front office. I suspect they had preselected Bryon, but wanted to wait to give the impression of due diligence .
That said, you cannot ignore his success with developing guards, and that is what the Lakers particularly need right now. I am willing to give Byron a chance in this area over the next two years, without making pronouncements about what will happen after that.
Also, I will be looking at what the Lakers do with their big men. Luke Walton is developing a reputation in Golden State with big men. The Lakers need someone to become recognized here – to help bring along Randle, Black, possibly Hibbert, and even work with Bass this year. We also need to maximize our instruction in this area. Is this going to be Madsen? Does any one either know or have any confidence about this?
The point of Robert’s post was that Russell’s development will also be affected by the roster that the FO has put together, and it will not just hinge on whether Byron “lives up to his reputation.” The FO made the decision to bring in a high-usage soon-to-be 29-year-old combo guard on a 3/21 contract who is the current 6MOtY. Joining a team that just lost 61 games, Lou Williams is going to expect serious burn and is going to want the rock in his hands. Adding that to Kobe, Young, and Clarkson, and to Mitch’s public suggestion that the team can contend for a low playoff seed, that creates a situation such that Russell will probably be competing for floor time and for time playing with the ball in his hands.
That may not be a bad thing, in that Russell may develop better if he plays 20-24 MPG and comes off the bench for awhile. But there have already been rumblings, including rumblings emanating from Andy Kamenetzky, that dumb ol’ Byron is going to mess up Russell and Randle by not playing them enough—and those rumblings have ignored the fact that bringing in Williams, and to a lesser extent, BB, have contributed to that possibility. But I guarantee that Byron will get toasted by many people if Russell and Randle are not starting Opening Night.
The Lakers could have, for example, probably signed Dorell Wright and Ronnie Price instead of Williams, and then said that they were going with a 3-guard rotation of Kobe /Clarkson/Russell, with Jabari Brown soaking up minutes when Kobe needs a night off and Price around as a mentor/emergency PG. Instead, they signed Williams and are looking at Kobe as a 3. Again, that may not be a bad thing. If I were Scott, I would probably try to establish a 3-guard rotation of Clarkson/Williams/Russell, and use Kobe/Young/ABrown as the 3s. But all of these things will have at least indirect effects on Russell.
Darius Soriano says
It’s Byron’s job to coach the team assembled, prioritizing correctly while taking into account short and long term roster and organizational goals. This is every coach’s job and one of the key reasons he’s typically well compensated. I can appreciate the challenges Byron will face, but a key part of the job description is getting and maintaining buy-in. One of the key reasons his predecessors were let go was due to an inability to execute in this specific area. And, while I noted my appreciation of those guys’ challenges too, I’ll say the same thing with Scott I said with them: this is the job you signed up for.
The question I am raising is this: whether the roster as presently constructed is well-constructed for the purpose of developing D’Angelo Russell, which, most people agree, is the the #1 issue for the coming season. Do you think it is? I think it is a very open question, and Byron didn’t offer Lou Williams, Nick Young, and Kobe the deals that they eventually signed.
One reason that I defended D’Antoni at times in 2013 was that he was given a roster with a lot of holes that was in many respects not suited to his coaching style. And the job that Mitch and Jim signed up for involves thinking about stuff like that before, and in conjunction with, hiring the coach.
Darius Soriano says
I have my questions about some of the redundancies on the roster, but I go back to the point that it’s the coach’s job to work with what he has and go from there. If that means making hard decisions and/or selling players on reduced or altered roles all while maintaining buy-in, well, that’s what coaches do; it’s part of the job description. And, you’re correct, Byron didn’t offer Young, Kobe, and Williams their deals. But he signed on to coach a team with Young and Kobe already on it — with a major arrow in his quiver as being a guy who could relate to/communicate well with Kobe — so I don’t really see what you’re getting at there. Again, this is the job he signed up for.
What I am getting at is a term used around here quite often: context. By signing Williams (who was brought in long after Byron agreed to coach the team) and by talking playoffs/Jim setting the timetable, the FO has arguably created a context that will make developing Russell more challenging. If your answer to that is, as it appears to be, “Dealing with those kinds of challenges is Byron’s job” then, fine. But in that case, then that kind of standard should applied just as rigorously to the FO as well. And the FO had to offer Byron the gig before he could sign up for it.
That noted, if Russell is as good as we all are hoping, and if, as you say, he has the work ethic, he should develop no matter what else is going on around him, even if there are some obstacles in his way. The NBA remains a talent league.
Darius Soriano says
Yes and no. Talent is for sure important, but so is being put in a position to be successful by coaches while, as the player, working hard within the context of that role to maximize your skillset. What I mean by that is there are many times I heard Nash and Kobe (and others like Stockton, Malone, Pippen, and even Jordan) talk about was how they would look at the spots they were supposed to operate within their respective offenses and master the shots available within those sets where they’d be operating most. So, their success wasn’t just the product of their undeniable talent, it was also their coaches putting them in optimal positions, and then the players working incredibly hard to maximize their considerable talent within those optimal positions.
The coach still has a key role in that.
As for Williams, my guess is that his signing was a bit of a talent grab on a somewhat reasonable deal, somewhat of a hedge on Nick Young’s inconsistency and propensity for finding himself in Byron’s doghouse, and a play for a player who can provide some scoring punch in place of Kobe should he be injured this year and beyond when he retires.
This isn’t the perfect solution and, again, I mentioned my concern with the redundancies. I’m sure if the FO or Byron had their way they would have gotten a guy like Middleton or Carroll or another young-ish player who could play SF, have a bit lower usage, defend better, AND do it all for a salary they were comfortable paying. But, based on the market, I’d bet you’d agree that seemed not really possible.
Getting back to Byron, this is the team he has to coach. He has some talent, both young and experienced. He will face challenges with positional overlap, skill overlap, and with lineup construction. Saying some of these issues are on the FO is more than fair. Exonerating Byron from having to find workable solutions isn’t something I’m on board with. I’m not saying this is what you’re saying, but, again, he’s the coach & is tasked with optimizing his players.
In essence, this is probably the criticism coaches face most. Or, at least, it’s tied with lineup construction/minutes distribution. In this way, Byron is no different than nearly every other coach. You’ve often said you lurk on other team sites, I’m sure you see other fanbases discussing these same issues.
J C says
Darius and rr,
That was a cool exchange to read.
Thanks for upholding the high standards here at FBG, my favorite internet site by a country mile.