I have a hard time reading the tea leaves when it comes to what Byron Scott’s future might entail. Last month, when a report surfaced that the Lakers were “torn” on whether Scott would return for a third season as Lakers’ head coach, I was not really surprised. I am sure Scott has backers in the front office (remember, these people hired him) and Scott is Lakers’ family due to his showtime connections.
When that last point is put into the context of the Lakers being a family business, it truly matters. There were whispers for a long time that Dr. Buss was quite fond of Scott and as a coach whose biggest influence is Pat Riley, that connection to the past is strong.
That said, when the aforementioned report surfaced, I also wrote a leak like this signified that Scott also has detractors in the front office. That there’s no reason for a leak like this to come out unless Scott being let go was truly a consideration. And that concerns which go beyond the team’s record and spill into how he’s handled the team’s young players might carry more weight than the circumstances he’s faced with injuries (his first season) and the Kobe retirement tour + incorporating a slew of young players (season two).
Why does this matter today? Well, Bleacher Report’s Howard Beck floated an interesting theory this morning on Scott’s potential future with the organization which adds another variable to the equation:
Theory floating around league: Lakers keep Byron 1 more year, just in case Phil opts out and returns to L.A. and wants to pick the coach.
— Howard Beck (@HowardBeck) March 15, 2016
The specter of a Phil Jackson return conjures strong emotions in nearly every Lakers’ fan, be it positive or negative. Phil’s track record as a coach is second to none, but his short tenure as Knicks’ top basketball decision maker has been more mixed. It’s early, of course, but firing his first ever hire as head coach after a season and a half and then hedging as though Kurt Rambis can actually find a way to remove the “interim” from his head coaching title aren’t the best of looks.
Let’s go beyond the Phil speculation, though. What this theory really means is that team Governor and part owner Jeanie Buss would be yielding some of her “final say” power by providing more direction on the basketball side. Based on the theory Beck notes, keeping Byron wouldn’t be so much based on Scott’s performance, but on the timing of Phil’s opt-out in New York coupled with the Jim Buss’ timeline for returning the Lakers to contention.
Also, let’s face it, if — and this truly is an if — Jim and Mitch are ready to move on from Scott, that would, typically, be their call since Jeanie has gone on record multiple times about not intervening on basketball related decisions. The framing of this, however, is that Jim and Mitch would hold onto Byron because their potential successor in basketball authority might want to choose his own coach.
That seems like a decision making process a totally healthy organization would make.
Don’t get me wrong, if Jeanie wants to be more hands on in her role as the final decision maker, that’s her prerogative. And, to be fair, the totality of what is written above is a theory and not necessarily anything which is actually happening right now.
But, as has been an issue for several years now, the optics on this don’t look very good. The fact that a theory like this even exists reflects a certain level of dysfunction that is, at the very least, perceived to exist in the Lakers’ front office and ownership. And if that dysfunction is real? Watch out. I mean, a sister letting her brother twist in the wind for a year, waiting for him to resign just to replace him with her fiancé?
Again, it’s all theory for now, but the subplots are incredible and, at the same time, shape the perception of the organization. When you’re not winning, this is how the vacuum is filled.