The Lakers are coming off their two worst seasons in franchise history. Consecutive seasons featuring descending wins from 21 to 17 have left the team the butt of jokes and fans anxious about the future of the team. Or, more specifically, the future of the head coach who guided his team to those records.
Waiting is never easy, but waiting is really all we can do. At his exit interview, Mitch Kupchak said he expected to have a sit-down with Scott and Jim Buss within a couple of weeks. That statement came on the heels of reports the team’s top decision makers were either leaning towards keeping Scott on or that fractured ownership and competing agendas would make a change unlikely.
Other reports note the front office is simply trying to decide:
Sacramento just getting started; Lakers deliberating whether to keep Byron Scott; Knicks' focus, for now, remains Kurt Rambis & David Blatt
— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) April 20, 2016
If you ask a vocal subset of Lakers’ fans, they’d probably incredulously ask what is there to deliberate? Scott has the stain of 38 wins over two seasons lording over him. He consistently pointed the finger at his team, and never himself, for the team’s on-court failures. He threw his young players under the bus to the media and jerked around their minutes. He didn’t do an appreciably good job of managing rotations. His schemes were antiquated, ineffective, or both. So, again, what is there to deliberate?
There is validity in that thinking. I’ve had many of those same thoughts in the past few months and, as the season neared its close I thought there was little doubt Scott would keep his job. There just seemed to be too many strikes against him.
Things are never really that straight forward, though.
“I roll with the punches because you guys, they, those guys — they’re not in here every day,” Scott said of his critics. “They don’t see what we’re doing in practice. They don’t see how we’re preparing these guys, so they have no clue … all they’re doing is voicing their opinion, and to be honest with you, I’m much smarter than all of them when it comes to basketball.”
That was Scott at his exit interview, throwing a shot across the bow at anyone who questioned his approach with his team. And while those words can come off as condescending, I can guarantee you that sentiment is part of what creates the need for the front office to deliberate Scott’s future. The fact is, we do only see part of what occurs and we do only get snippets of information — even if we do get them daily during the season.
Further, those who are to decide Scott’s fate are going to take into account the context in which the results were produced.
“I think Byron has done an excellent job under the circumstances he has had to deal with the last two years.”
That’s Mitch Kupchak, speaking very plainly about Scott’s job performance. Remember, the Lakers were ravaged by injuries in Scott’s first year as coach. This past season Kobe’s inconsistent game availability and lack of practicing combined with a roster full of young players who make the mistakes young players make created a situation in which good results were not likely.
As I noted in a podcast I did on Wednesday night, the challenges of this past season were real and any objective view of this season must account for them. That may not be something fans want to hear — in fact, fans and analysts alike will to point back at Scott and his role in helping to foster an environment where those challenges festered — but it doesn’t change that they existed.
I’ve no doubt that some in the Lakers organization feel as though if you give Scott a better team under more ideal circumstances, the results will improve. Improve the talent base enough (max free agent/two impact level players? top draft pick to either add a rookie or trade for a proven veteran?) and tilt the scales in an even more favorable direction and the recent struggles may end up being a distant memory.
Maybe that’s far-fetched, but, again, I can guarantee this mindset exists.
So what now? I have gone on record on what I would do. But what I would do isn’t relevant. As it stands, the Lakers have a coach.
Should fans feel worried that Tom Thibodeau is now running the Timberwolves and that Scott Brooks just took the Wizards job? Should they start to feel upset that candidates who would likely have been interested in the Lakers job were it open are now going to be leading other teams because that opening never came to fruition?
Regardless of whether these things stir up the emotions in you or not, we are nearing (and many would say at) the point where it would be good to know Scott’s future either way. If he’s going to be let go, one has to figure it should happen soon if only to ensure they get the interviews they want with the candidate(s) they would like to hire. If they’re going to keep him, some will go bonkers, but at least the answer is there and everyone can move on and assess next steps for the summer and upcoming season.
It is time to move forward, one way or the other.