Former Los Angeles Lakers head coach Byron Scott is enjoying his time away from coaching in the NBA while currently promoting his new book, Slam-Dunk Success, with co-author Charlie Norris.
Scott spoke with Lakers Nation this week to talk about his new book and a number of different topics including the new Lakers regime, Magic Johnson, Paul George, Brandon Ingram, D’Angelo Russell, Lonzo and LaVar Ball as well as whether he intends to return to coaching in the NBA in the future.
Ryan Ward: What motivated you to write Slam-Dunk Success with Charlie Norris?
Byron Scott: “The main factor was that we knew there was two components to it. We need the business world of basketball and the corporate world, which Charlie is so familiar with, had a lot in common and second arc was we always kept getting the question, ‘What did we have in common?’ and we just felt that people didn’t ask that next question.
“If you look at the cover of the book, you probably look at us and think that we have nothing in common, but we have a lot in common. We have a lot of similarities in our beliefs as far as leadership goes and how to treat people and things of that nature. We just thought it would be an interesting book to come from the business world and the sports world combined.”
How did your two worlds collide?
BS: “We met nine years ago at Equinox in West Los Angeles. A couple weeks after a friend of ours introduced us we became pretty good friends and started working out together. The more we worked out and the more time we spent together, the more we got to know each other and how much we thought alike. He started integrating me into his world which was going to corporate meetings and bank meetings and things of that nature and I was also having him come to practice. Sit in on coaches meetings and film sessions and things like that, so it was one of those relationships that kind of developed and evolved over the years. Now it is just one of those things that he is a part of my family as I am probably a part of his family.”
Did Magic Johnson help with the process of writing this book?
BS: “We told him what we were doing and he was like ‘this is great’ and he thought it was going to be something special. Coming from a guy playing on the basketball court and having been very successful having also entered the business world we thought it’ll be perfect for him to write the foreword and he agreed.”
Leadership and having the right mentality to be successful seems to be the theme of the book. Were those the main principles that guided you in your success on and off the court?
BS: “One thing I’ve been willing to do is to step outside the box. Willing to go outside my comfort zone. Charlie and I talk a lot about that in the book. That’s what leaders do. They’re not afraid to fail. They also know that in order to grow you have to take chances and you have to learn from your mistakes.
“Everything that we wrote in that book has to do with real-life stuff. It is all the things that I truly believe in. All the things that have guided me through my career as a player and as a coach and now as an entrepreneur and businessman as well. All the lessons that I’ve learned basically we put them down in that book and kind of let people know that I have had a lot of success and a lot of failures as well.”
Who should buy and read Slam-Dunk Success and why?
BS: “I think if you’re in high school and you’re into sports or business if you’re 50-year-old or 60-year-old that’s running a company and you need some other tools or some other thoughts, I think it goes from that age group. I think the reason you should buy it is because it’s a great feel-good story, but it also tells the truth. It’s not Charlie and I preaching to you. It’s about our life experiences and what we’ve accomplished and what we’ve endured. One of the biggest sells of the books is the fact that we’ve had a lot of failures in our lives as well and it really gives people a first-hand view on when you do have failures how to get back up from those failures to get back on the horse and be successful again.”
What do you think of the Lakers front office shakeup?
BS: “Thought it was great. I thought Jeanie [Buss] did the right thing as far as hiring Magic Johnson and bringing him in. You have a great basketball mind, number one, and also a guy that understands now have to run businesses as well. His success on and off the court has been unbelievable and I think he’s going to bring that back to Los Angeles, especially to the Lakers. Also, it gives them a guy they know can go out and get free agents. He can definitely sell Los Angeles to them. He can sell the organization to them. I think Jeanie got it right. Her and Magic together are going to bring the Lakers back, but it is going to take time. It’s not a quick fix. It’s not going to take a year or two, it might take a little longer. I definitely think she made the right decisions.”
Do you think Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka will make some major changes this summer?
BS: “I think they’re looking to do so. I think they’re obviously looking to see if they can get a big-time free agent and it is probably going to be via trade or something like that. I think that’s what is on their minds, trying to make those changes right now. So I definitely think the Lakers are going to make a splash this summer.”
You recently said you think the Lakers should trade for Paul George. Why do you think the team should go that direction?
BS: “Magic has said Paul George’s name on a few occasions, so I’m just going by what I hear. I think Paul George has pretty much said he would love to play in L.A., so I’m just putting two and two together and I think it would be great for the city. I think it would be great for Paul George who grew up idolizing and rooting for the Lakers to be able to go back and play for a team that he loves. It would be a big splash for Earvin.
“Now I think in order to do that obviously they’ve got to give up something. Picks and players. I don’t think it is going to be one or the other. I think it is going to be both, so Indiana is going to have to be willing to part with him if they can’t re-sign him next year. So that’s kind of the guessing game going on right now, but I think that is definitely somebody that is definitely on their radar.”
Have you been giving Magic any input on the players of the young core that you coached in L.A.?
BS: “No. I didn’t have to. I think what he did after he got the job is he went to practice every single day. Talked to those guys every single day to get a pretty good idea of what they’re all about and who can help in the future and who can’t. You know, when Earvin and I talk, we never talk about what I think about this guy or what he thinks about this guy, we just talk in general about the league and other stuff, but if he were ever to ask me about certain players on the team that I coached I would obviously give him my opinion.
“I think he did the right thing. He went there and watched them on a day-to-day basis to form his own opinion because he is going to have to be the one to make those decisions on who to trade or who stays.”
What are your thoughts on Brandon Ingram? Do you think he has what it takes to be a star in the NBA?
BS: “He’s definitely a guy that is probably in their future plans. Being a star, I don’t know. But I think he has the work ethic and the maturity to be a great player in this league and that’s big time, especially when you’re 19 years old. A lot of these guys at 19 years old, they come into the league and they’re still not ready to understand what this league is all about.
“All indications from what I hear about Brandon is he’s a very mature 19-year-old and he’s going to continue to get better.”
If the Lakers keep their lottery pick, Lonzo Ball could be there for the taking. Do you think his father, LaVar Ball, will make Magic, Pelinka, and Luke Walton think twice about drafting Lonzo if they have the opportunity?
BS: “No, I don’t think so. I think Magic is more than capable of dealing with Mr. Ball, so I don’t think that will be an issue whatsoever.”
What’s your opinion on LaVar Ball and all these outrageous statements he’s made over the past few months?
BS: “I think he’s put his son in a very vicarious position. When you come in as a rookie as a high pick, guys in this league they target you anyway. With his dad being so outspoken, it is going to be even more so a target on his back.
“As a father, I would have never had done that to my son. I would never put that type of pressure on my son. I would just keep my mouth shut and wherever he goes try to help him as much as possible behind the scenes. Not out front like he has been.”
LaVar aside, do you think Lonzo is the right fit for the Lakers or is there any other draft prospect you’ve been impressed with and a better fit for L.A.?
BS: “Well, I don’t know. Again, a lot of it is going to depend on a lot of the moves that the Lakers might want to make. He might be in their future plans if he’s there at their pick and he might not. Again, I’m not privy to that information because I’m not in the front office with those guys every day and having meetings with them.
“From the outside looking in, the kid is a good player. How good? That’s the question. Can he be? That’s going to be the big question mark because all these guys come in with potential, but very rarely do they live up to it.”
Switching gears to D’Angelo Russell. Do you think he’s more suited to playing the shooting guard position after seeing the one year you coached him and last year?
BS: “It seems like he flourished a little bit more at that position than he did as a point guard. If that’s the case, maybe a Lonzo Ball would be a perfect fit as a point guard. Again, there’s a lot of “ifs” when you start talking about the draft at this particular point.”
Do you think there’s any player that is untouchable on the Lakers right now?
BS: “No. [laughs] I don’t.”
Do you have a favorite Magic Johnson story you can share?
BS: “[Laughs] That’s rated PG? One of my favorite stories is my rookie year. Magic was always telling me — when we got to the Finals my rookie year — he was always saying ‘When we win, we all win’ and I just thought that was ironic because he I said ‘Yeah, of course, we all win.’ He was like ‘You don’t understand what I’m saying. When we win, we all win.’ We ended up losing to the Celtics that year and the next year we came back and we won the championship and he kept saying the same thing again when we were in the Finals that year.
“Once we won the championship, it was amazing how much you’re in demand. Everybody wants a piece of you. Everybody wants to do an autograph session. Everybody wants to do a TV interview. You’re getting all these endorsements from everybody coming after you and I saw him later on that summer and I said, ‘Now I understand what you mean.’ When we win, we all win. On and off the court. So it finally hit me after two years of not understanding fully what he meant. It finally hit me that year that this is exactly what he was talking about. And he was like, ‘I told you. When we win, we all win. One through 13.’ And he was exactly right.”
How do you think Magic is going to do in this new role with the Lakers?
BS: “Yeah, but it is a challenge. That’s what Earvin lives for. He loves challenges. It was a challenge when he went into the business world. Nobody really thought he would succeed at that, but he’s taken his company to new heights and different levels. This is just another challenge for him and I think from a basketball standpoint he looked at it as something he wanted to do. Something that he feels he is going to be great at and I feel so, too. But it is a challenge to get this team back to where it was when he left. That’s probably the biggest challenge, but I think if anybody is up for the job, it’s Magic.”
Will you ever return to coaching in the NBA or would you consider coaching in the college ranks?
BS: “I would definitely consider coaching in the college ranks. The NBA, returning there, is so iffy for me. It’s not my first choice, let’s put it that way. I would definitely think about the college ranks way before the NBA.”