Byron Scott Comes Home
Moments after Byron Scott was introduced as the newest head coach of the Lakers on Tuesday at the team's practice facility, his former teammates Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Jamaal Wilkes marched through the door to flank their Showtime shooting guard.
"Congratulations to the Lakers organization … you chose the right guy," said Magic. "We're just excited for what Byron will bring to the table and get back to playing Laker basketball."
"His confidence and leadership and knowledge of the game will definitely benefit this team," added the NBA's all-time leading scorer. "Welcome home, B. We're going to be down there bothering you every night."
Having the immediate approval and support of two of the greatest players ever, and a third who also happens to be in the Hall of Fame, is a poignant, close-to-home way to begin a career step that for Scott has been atop his mind for years and years.
"This has been a dream of mine for so long, a dream come true to be introduced to be the head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers," said Scott. "The passion and the love that I have for this organization is second to none. The thing I regret is that Dr. Buss isn't here today.
"But as I told Jim and Jeanie (Buss), I'm going to do everything in my power to make (my former teammates) proud, to make the Buss family proud, and to do everything I can to bring this team back to where we know it should be. This organization is all about championships. Period. I'm excited, thrilled to death, eager, and just ready to get to work."
Scott's ties to Los Angeles go deeper than just his time playing the two guard for 11 of his 14 years as a player, resulting in three championships (1985, '87 and '88), of course. Scott grew up in Inglewood, sneaking in to the Forum as a kid, dreaming of one day wearing the jersey.
He now becomes the 21st coach in the Los Angeles era.
It will be Scott's fourth stint as an NBA head coach, after 416 combined wins in New Jersey (2002-04), New Orleans/OKC (2004-09) and Cleveland (2010-13). He took the Nets to back-to-back Finals appearances in 2002 and '03, and was named the coach of the year for the Hornets in 2007-08 after leading New Orleans to a 17-game improvement from the previous year with largely the same roster. His time in Cleveland came after LeBron James left for Miami, leaving behind a relatively barren roster, leading to 166 of his 521 career losses that left him hungry to prove his worth yet again.
"From the beginning, although we went through a long process, we felt Byron was the leader and the right choice," said Kupchak. "Byron has proven himself at the highest levels of the game as both a player and a coach in his almost 30 years of NBA experience. His leadership skills and track record for success make him the ideal person to lead this franchise forward.”
Scott's task is to deliver wins in the immediate future despite a current roster that managed just 27 of them amidst an injury ravaged 2013-14 (319 collective games missed). He does have some new talent with which to work, and a healthy Kobe Bryant (six games played last season) at the top.
"I know it's going to be a challenge," said the new coach. "The main thing I have to do right away is establish ourselves as a defensive basketball team. Offense is going to come and go, but you control your effort on the defensive end every night, and we obviously have to get that back in the plans. I like the roster Mitch and Jim have put together, a mix of youth and experienced guys, and I'm looking forward to working with them."
One advantage Scott has is having a strong relationship with his best player, Bryant, who happened to be a teammate of his during Bryant's rookie year of 1996. The two have had a strong bond ever since.
"We have a great relationship," said Scott. "I know Kobe's will and determination. I think we're on the same page on how we think about this game and how it should be played… Kobe's an unbelievable basketball player that has an unbelievable mind about basketball."
Scott went on to discuss other players on the roster, from rookie Julius Randle to veteran Nick Young – whom he happened to hilariously impersonate as a Time Warner Cable SportsNet analyst last year – and Jeremy Lin, Carlos Boozer, Jordan Hill and Ed Davis. He'll spend the next month and change thinking about how he's going to put those players in the best position to win. He'll hire his assistant coaches and establish defensive and offensive schemes and identities.
He'll try to find the best way to combine all of his purple and gold experiences of the past into his vision of how the Lakers can get back up to the top of the mountain.
"I’m happy to see Byron with a tie to the past, but more importantly, a bridge to the future," summarized Jamaal Wilkes.
Byron Scott is back in purple and gold, trying to restore the tradition he once helped build.