After going through the entire free agency period without a head coach, the Los Angeles Lakers finally announced their guy in former player and three-time NBA Champion, Byron Scott.
Not only has Scott experienced great success with the Lakers as a player, but he has also been relatively successful since venturing into coaching. He led the New Jersey Nets to back-to-back NBA Finals appearances in 2002 and 2003, and was named NBA Coach of the Year in 2008 with the New Orleans Hornets.
Scott provides the Lakers with a rare combination as not only is he a successful NBA coach, but he also understands what it means to be a member of the Lakers — something he will be able to pass on to the younger players on the roster.
He also has a very good relationship with Kobe Bryant as he was Kobe’s mentor when the latter first entered the league in 1996. He should be able to communicate with Kobe about what he needs to be done, and there is mutual respect between the two. But does all this mean he was the best person for the job?
There were a number of extremely successful coaches available when the Lakers job first became open. Big names like Stan and Jeff Van Gundy, established veterans like George Karl and Lionel Hollins, and intriguing newcomers like Steve Kerr and Derek Fisher were all possibilities.
Some got interviews and some didn’t. Most are coaching somewhere else in the NBA this season. Perhaps one of them could have been on the Lakers bench had they pushed earlier. But in the end, the Lakers have their guy in Byron Scott.
So we asked our panel of experts, do you believe Byron Scott was the best choice as Lakers head coach? This is what they had to say:
Kevin Chan (@Kevin_Cruiser): The Lakers front office struck out on their previous two head coaching hires. Both Mike Brown and Mike D’Antoni were terminated before their contract’s end. Will this be strike three? I feel like the Lakers made an uninspired, but very safe, fan-friendly hire.
Scott had the support of former Lakers and current players on the roster, namely Kobe Bryant. Most longtime Lakers fans are also familiar with Scott and comfortable with him at the helm. That Byron Scott would be the next Lakers head coach was the worst kept secret of the off-season.
However, this was a vapid coaching search – at one point they interviewed Mike Dunleavy. I mean come on, really? Clearly the Lakers weren’t willing to take calculated risks to nab an up-and-coming coach. Instead they played it safe and picked the low hanging fruit.
Nothing against Byron Scott – I loved him as a player and I respect the limited success he had in his prior stints with the Nets and Hornets. But to a man, if you talk to level-headed NBA fans, they will tell you what most people know to be true: Byron Scott is an average head coach. He has very limited upside, if any. The Lakers are getting a known quantity who will hopefully be better than his two predecessors.
Taking a look at a few recent coaching hires shows me that teams are more creative than the Lakers when it comes to hiring. The Cavs went overseas and plucked David Blatt from the Euroleague and the Spurs hired a very promising assistant coach, Ettore Messina from CSKA Moscow. Both Blatt and Messina won Euroleague Championships and enjoyed sustained success.
Looking back to last year, I really liked the Celtics bringing up Brad Stevens from Butler. Also it was smart of the Hawks and 76ers to hire from Gregg Popovich’s assistant coaching stable. These teams took calculated risks to hire a coach with significant upside.
Meanwhile the Lakers played it safe when they could’ve afforded to take some risk given that they’re in rebuilding mode and the team isn’t expected to contend immediately. On the whole this was a very ho hum coaching hire for the Lakers and only time will tell if they made the right decision.
Russell Valenzuela (@RussVal4): I have long believed that the Lakers weren’t going to win a title in two years Kobe Bryant has left on his contract. With that said, when the team entered the off-season without a coach, they still needed to find someone that demanded Bryant’s respect.
Anyone that came in would have to establish a relationship with Bryant in order to properly coach the rest of the team. To me, that was always Byron Scott’s greatest strength as a candidate.
Sure, there were coaches that might have had a better record than Scott. Let’s not forget that both Mike Brown and Mike D’Antoni were considered to be good coaches before their time with the Lakers. A big part of their failures was the inability to get on the same page as Bryant.
The added bonus is that Scott had been a huge part of the Lakers franchise in the past and knows what it means to be a Laker. With the team going through a transitional phase, it’s important for players on the team to continue to pride themselves on being a member of this prestigious franchise. Having Scott teach and show them is ideal in my eyes.
Scott is the perfect face to lead the Lakers in the near future as they look to rebuild themselves into contenders again. It’s not going to happen right away, but Scott will help guide them into the right direction.
Ryan Ward (@Lakers_Examiner): With Lionel Hollins no longer an option, Byron Scott was the best choice for the Los Angeles Lakers.
A lot of notable coaches were mentioned as candidates for the job like Mark Jackson, John Calipari and Mike Krzyzewski, but it seems as though the team had Scott pegged as Mike D’Antoni’s successor all along.
Scott brings a new dynamic to the team with an emphasis on accountability on the defensive side of the floor. D’Antoni didn’t make much of an effort last year to improve defensively which was something he was highly criticized for during his time in Los Angeles.
Scott also brings the kind of love and passion for the franchise that has been sorely lacking in Los Angeles over the past few years. Phil Jackson wasn’t one to show his emotion or passion for the purple and gold, but we all knew it was there.
Scott on the other hand will likely be more vocal while running the team with a true desire to see the team to succeed continuing the legacy as one of the best organizations in professional sports.
Will Scott being the answer to all the Lakers problems? No. Not in the slightest. Will Scott help improve the team moving forward and change the culture in the process? Yes. I believe Scott will shake things up with Kobe backing up his former teammate and current coach.
It’ll be interesting to see how things pan out over the next three years before Scott’s team option in year four. Scott will have the time to get the team back on track, but it remains to be seen if he’ll been able to pull it off before the Lakers brass decides to make another change at head coach.
Nathan Kim (@Kimchiz): Byron Scott was the best choice for the Lakers out of the coaches available.
With many potential candidates getting hired (Lionel Hollins, Derek Fisher, Stan Van Gundy, and Steve Kerr) the Lakers were left with only a few head coaches they could consider. Furthermore, after the horrible legacy that Mike D’Antoni left, the Lakers needed a big name that would satisfy the fans.
There were really only two coaches that the Lakers could even consider, Byron Scott and George Karl. George Karl is a fantastic coach. He even won the NBA Coach of the Year award in 2013, the last season that he coached since he was relieved by the Denver Nuggets. He has won nearly 60 percent of his games in shi career, and has proven that he can coach.
One downside to Karl however, is his health. Karl has a history with cancer and although he is healthy now, the potential for a health issue may have deterred the Lakers from choosing Karl.
Byron Scott has had a decent coaching career, even making it to the NBA Finals in two consecutive years and winning Coach of the Year in 2008. The Lakers however didn’t choose Byron because of his numbers, per se, but rather because of his history with the Lakers organization. Scott is a recognizable face to Laker fans and is the perfect choice to progress the team and to satisfy Laker fans.
Suki Thind (@TheRealSuki): Given the Lakers’ current roster, I do believe he was the best choice. Byron Scott will provide this rebuilding team with structure and poise.
Additionally, he’ll be given the benefit of the doubt by fans and media, as he’s a former Laker who bleeds purple and gold as he showed during his emotional introductory press conference.
He also has a solid rapport with Kobe Bryant, which never hurts. We’ll see how it all unfolds as the season plays out, but for now it certainly seems like the most wise choice.
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