Two weeks ago at exit interviews, Mitch Kupchak said Byron Scott was still the coach of the Lakers, but left the door open for that to change by suggesting that he and Jim Buss would meet to discuss the future of the position.
As it turned out, frequent conversations ultimately resulted in the Lakers deciding against bringing Scott back for the optional third and fourth years on his contract.
“There wasn’t one reason that led to the decision to not extend Byron’s contract,” said Kupchak in a 1-on-1 interview with Time Warner Cable SportsNet’s Chris McGee. “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.”
Kupchak said the decision was made exclusively within the basketball operations side of the franchise, and that he and Buss will also be making the decision about Scott’s replacement.
So, when will it happen?
“It’s not something that we want to drag out,” he explained. “There are a lot of different arenas that we can look to to find a coach … We’re trying to narrow the list down. We’ll contact some people, and go from there. I don’t think it’s gonna drag out, but you don’t know.”
Who’s on that list?
Kupchak didn’t say, but multiple media reports have included names like Warriors assistant and former Laker Luke Walton, UCONN head coach Kevin Ollie and Spurs assistant Ettore Messina.
Among the major priorities will be a coach that can both reach and grow with L.A.’s talented young core, which Kupchak said did progress under Scott.
“I thought our young players did make progress,” he offered. “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.”
The Lakers have legitimate appeal to a coach looking towards the future:
- D’Angelo Russell (20 years old), Julius Randle (21), Jordan Clarkson (23) and Larry Nance, Jr. (23) all showed bright signs in 2015-16.
- There’s a 56 percent likelihood that the Lakers get a Top 3 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft.
- L.A. holds the No. 32 overall pick, which has historically been a good position since second-round contracts aren’t limited to a certain price point, and – for example – players playing abroad are sometimes encouraged to come over from such a position.
- Kobe Bryant’s 60-point night served as a reminder to what it’s like succeeding with the Lakers, as Kupchak explained: "Anybody that watched the game knows what it’s like playing in Los Angeles and what it is to be successful here. We are selling the city, the franchise, our fanbase to potential free agents. This summer, we could get two max players, or a max player and two or three other veterans. You could get multiple players, whether they talk amongst themselves or figure out who wants to play (with whom), come July 1. We’re in a position to add multiple veteran players to the existing core we have."
- With Bryant and Roy Hibbert’s contracts, in particular, coming off the books, there’s a ton of cap space, as Kupchak alluded to.
Who’s going to inherit and, if the Lakers have their way, complement those selling points?
We’ll know sooner than later.