July 31, 2014
By Kenneth D. Miller
Assistant Managing Editor
The Los Angeles Lakers and former star guard Byron Scott have come full circle after the team agreed to hire the Morningside High School product to become their next coach on a four-year $17 million deal.
It took an exhausting three months for the Lakers front office, consisting of owners Jim Buss and Jeanie Buss along with General Manager Mitch Kupchak, to seal the deal last week for Scott to replace Mike D’Antoni, who resigned following the season.
Essentially, it now means that Scott will coach star Kobe Bryant for the length of his two-year $48 million contract that handicapped the Lakers from signing any notable free agents this summer.
“He was my rookie mentor when I first came in the league, so I had to do things like get him doughnuts and run errands for him, things like that,” said Bryant, who played just six games last season. “We’ve had a tremendously close relationship throughout the years.”
Bryant spoke highly of Scott during his recent annual camp in Santa Barbara, figuratively backing both Buss and Kupchak into a corner to make the hire of the former Arizona State star.
Since he retired from the NBA as a player he has publically desired of coaching the team he won three championships with.
“It feels fantastic,” he told KCBS. “This is a dream come true. I always wanted to coach the Lakers, especially when I got to coaching. It’s so unreal. I have to thank [general manager] Mitch [Kupchak], [owners] Jeanie and Jim Buss [for giving] me this opportunity.”
Although he has been the leading candidate and perhaps the only candidate (because the Lakers coaching job grew progressively less attractive as the summer months unfolded), the team front office still had no comment about his hire as of Sunday night.
While many believe the Lakers brass wanted to assemble their team before hiring a coach, it was a rather orthodox approach that puzzled most experts.
Among the candidates interviewed for the job included ESPN Analyst George Karl, former Memphis coach Lionel Hollins, former Lakers assistant Kurt Rambis and former Phoenix Suns and Clippers head coach Alvin Gentry. Karl is the only one who did not land a coaching job with another team.
Hollins was hired as head coach to replace Jason Kidd in Brooklyn, Rambis landed as a high paid associate head coach with the Knicks on the bench with Derek Fisher and Gentry was named the associate head coach with Golden State.
Karl was never the best fit, not having any connection to the franchise, although he did have a fleeting relationship with Bryant.
Once the Lakers realized that Scott was their man, one whom the Buss’ late father was fond of as well as one who enjoyed both a connection to the Showtime era and Bryant, then it was just a matter of working out the details of a contract.
It is believed that Scott desired a five year deal, but the Lakers only wanted to go two years, they settled in the middle on a four year deal with the team holding the option on the final year.
The compensation in the deal for the 13-year coaching veteran is about right where it should be – a shade more than $4 million per season.
An original draft pick of the then San Diego Clippers in 1983, Scott played 11 seasons for the Lakers from 1983-’93 and his final tour in 1996-‘97, two with the Indiana Pacers from 1993-’95 and one with the then Vancouver Grizzlies from 1995-’96. He retired from playing after a season in Greece in 1998.
His NBA coaching career was launched with Sacramento in 1998-2000. He acquired his first head coaching job with the then New Jersey Nets from 2000-2004, where he led the team to back-to back NBA Finals appearances.
He left the Nets and was hired in New Orleans from 2004-2009. Among the players he coached was former UCLA star Baron Davis. Scott was also instrumental in the development of Chris Paul, now a star with the Clippers.
Scott’s last stint was with Cleveland from 2010-2013. He was fired and replaced by former Lakers coach Mike Brown, who lasted just one season before he was canned.
Off the court, Scott has a non-profit organization, The Byron Scott Children’s Fund, which has raised more than $15 million over the past decade with proceeds going to various children’s charities. Scott has recently served as a studio analyst for Time Warner on the Lakers broadcast, ABC's NBA telecasts and was featured on ESPN.
Scott and his wife, Anita, have three children: Thomas, LonDen and DaRon. Thomas is also a coach and trainer and will likely become a member of his coaching staff.