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Kupchak Discusses Search for New Coach
After compiling a 38-126 record in two years as head coach of the Lakers, Byron Scott was informed that his contract would not be extended, thus ending his tenure at the reins of the team.
General Manager Mitch Kupchak, who helped make the decision, spoke with Time Warner Cable SportsNet’s Chris McGee about Scott and the search for a new coach.
Below is a full transcript of the interview:
On what led to the decision to part ways with Scott:
Kupchak: The season ended a little bit less than two weeks ago, and (for) the last couple of weeks Jim (Buss) and I have spent a lot of time talking about the last two years and also going forward in the future. There wasn’t one reason that led to the decision to not extend Byron’s contract. It was a bunch of things. Really just looking ahead and going forward, we just felt it was the best thing (for) the organization. If you’re going to make a change, make the change now.
On how much emphasis was placed on Scott’s 38 wins in two years and his handling of the Lakers’ young players:
Kupchak: You can never discount your record. That’s always a factor, although in this case I wouldn’t say it was the primary factor. And I thought our young players did make progress. The hardest thing to do is get young players minutes, and we had a bunch of young players. And veteran coaches don’t normally like to play young kids big minutes, and Byron did that. We saw great development. Some of it was by design, some of it was by injuries. Of course, this last year with Kobe (Bryant), at times, presented opportunities for our young players to play. So that’s all good.
On whether the decision was made by the Basketball Operations staff or in collaboration with other management members:
Kupchak: This was clearly just a basketball decision. That’s the way the organization is set up. Jim and I oversee the basketball department, and we agreed on this 100 percent.
On how important it is to find stability at the head coach position given that there have been three non-interim coaches in five years:
Kupchak: You’d like to get a coach that lasts 20 years. Gregg Popovich in San Antonio has been there a long time. That would be great. But in our business that is rare. If you can have a four- or five-year run as a coach, you’ve had a great run in this business. A lot of times the runs last two or three years, sometimes less than that. So it would be nice to get a coach that’s gonna be with us for quite some time, but the nature of the business is that sometimes that’s not possible.
On the search for a new head coach:
Kupchak: It’s not something that we want to drag out. There are a lot of different arenas that we can look to to find a coach, without mentioning those different possibilities. That opens up, clearly, assistants, existing head coaches, and we’ve got a list. We’re trying to narrow the list down. We’ll contact some people and hopefully we’ll have some phone conversations, maybe some in-person interviews, and go from there. I don’t think it’s gonna drag out, but you don’t know.
On whether the team wants to avoid waiting until after free agency to hire a new coach:
Kupchak: I think that’s very unlikely and I think it’s unlikely there will be anything done in the next week or two — maybe two weeks. But certainly I don’t anticipate this dragging into the summer. We’d like to get it done. We’re looking to have a big offseason. It’d be nice to have our staff in place during the draft, and certainly when July 1 (free agency) rolls around.
On how challenging it is to rebuild when the fan base is so used to winning:
Kupchak: This is our third year where we are in a rebuild process, and it was tough to move forward into the next chapter because of the veteran mix and, of course, the uncertainty of Kobe being able to play. This year turned out to be a magical year with Kobe, certainly ending on one of the greatest performances we’ve ever seen. But all along we’ve known that Kobe was always a lot closer to the end than he was to the beginning. So we started the process a couple years ago and it’s been painful. We’ve made some progress. We have some young players that we like. We are hopeful that we have a good draft, and certainly we’re hopeful going into free agency. We feel that we’re positioned well as an organization to quickly be in a different position a year from now. Does that mean 50 or 55 (wins)? I don’t know. But we do feel that we can make great progress.
On the upcoming draft:
Kupchak: We have to rely on the lottery and the luck of the gods to give us a pick this year in the top three. We do know we have the second pick in the second round, which will be a good draft pick. And if we don’t get this year’s (first round) pick, we’ll get next year’s pick. And then after that is, of course, July 1 free agency and we’ll go from there.