The Los Angeles Lakers took their good old time, but they indeed finally settled on a coach as they started contract negotiations Friday with Byron Scott, according to ESPN The Magazine’s Chris Broussard.
The first question that comes to mind is: What took so long?
It has been nearly three months since Mike D'Antoni resigned April 30, accepting a buyout worth approximately half of the $4 million he was due to be paid next season.
League sources told me on the night that D’Antoni left that the Lakers would cast a wide net for their coaching search, and the sense was that if you could think of a coach who could feasibly step in to fill the role, the Lakers were probably mulling him over too.
The search never ended up being that widespread.
L.A. talked to only six candidates that we know of: Scott, Lionel Hollins, Alvin Gentry, Kurt Rambis, Mike Dunleavy and George Karl.
All of them you could talk yourself into and talk yourself out of. Sure, Hollins had championship pedigree as a player with those Portland teams in the '70s, but if he was really that good, would Memphis have cut him loose? Yes, Gentry has been a long-respected assistant, but other than that one run with Phoenix to the 2010 Western Conference finals, what had he done as the head guy? Dunleavy and Rambis both have Lakers ties, but the former has been out of coaching for years and the latter had 100 more losses than wins in his time in Minnesota. Karl is considered an offensive genius, but then again, the same could be said about D’Antoni.
While the Lakers weighed the pluses and minuses of the group, they purposely kept their coaching chair open.
It was no secret that if they ended up pulling off a coup and landing LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony or both, they wanted to entice the superstars to come by letting them have a say in who would coach them.
All the while, however, they kept Scott in the loop, bringing him back for a second interview June 10 prior to free agency and then again for a third talk July 16 after the Anthony/James dream had died and L.A. instead filled up its roster with the likes of Jeremy Lin, Carlos Boozer and Ed Davis.
Which brings us to the second question that needs to be asked: Why Byron?
It wasn’t just about his ties to the Showtime era, but that surely helped. It wasn’t just that he was around the team all last season as an analyst for the Lakers’ television station, Time Warner Cable SportsNet, and had an intimate knowledge of what went down, but that helped too.
The Lakers franchise also wanted to establish a clear defensive identity after being atrocious on that end of the court last season, and Scott’s credentials include a strong defensive-minded reputation.
But really, the Scott hire comes down to one man: Kobe Bryant. L.A. invested close to $50 million in Bryant over the next two seasons when he’ll be 36 and a 19-year veteran and 37 and a 20-year veteran.
Despite all that’s gone wrong in Laker Land since Phil Jackson retired in 2011, Bryant still remains as a box office draw and a future first-ballot Hall of Famer.
Whichever coach the Lakers decided on would have to mesh well personalitywise with Bryant first and foremost and, beyond that, play a system that would help Bryant continue to be productive even as Father Time is taking his toll.
It was no accident that Bryant publicly endorsed Scott for the job during his youth basketball camp in Santa Barbara, California, earlier this month.
"He was my rookie mentor when I first came into the league," Bryant said. "So I had to do things like get his doughnuts and run errands for him and things like that. We've had a tremendously close relationship throughout the years. So, obviously I know him extremely well. He knows me extremely well. I've always been a fan of his."
The Lakers have always operated with championships on the mind, but with a title pretty much out of the picture in the short term, they simply want to get back to having their team and everything that surrounds it be an accurate reflection of all the winning the franchise has already accomplished.
And out of all the realistic candidates for the job, Scott was the right man to start the journey from shambles back to Showtime.