When Phil Jackson finally retires, as expected, this summer, Byron Scott would appear to be a logical choice to surface as a candidate to replace the Los Angeles Lakers coach. Scott is an Inglewood, Calif., native who has bled purple and gold since watching Jerry West as a child. He won three titles in a starring role on the “Showtime” Lakers, has played alongside Kobe Bryant(notes) and has 10-plus seasons of experience as a head coach.
The only thing keeping Scott from making a run at his dream job is that he already has a job – coaching the Cleveland Cavaliers, who happen to have the NBA’s worst record.
“I got a three-year deal here and no out,” Scott said. “I didn’t say I want an out just in case the Lakers job opened up or anything like that. Any time I put my name on a piece of paper I’m committed to that organization. And I’m committed to this Cleveland Cavaliers organization.
“I look at it like this: Sometimes it’s not meant to be. Sometimes that dream job that you think is your dream job just doesn’t happen. A piece of me would be hurt, but I would also understand that it’s probably not in the cards.”
Prior to Jackson’s decision to return to the Lakers last summer, there was a lot of speculation that Scott would emerge as a strong candidate to become the team’s next coach, given his past success with the New Jersey Nets and New Orleans Hornets, his history with the franchise and his solid relationship with Bryant.
Scott, however, said he was certain that not everyone in the Lakers organization held him in high regard. At the same time, the Cavaliers expressed interest in hiring Scott even though LeBron James’(notes) future with the franchise was still unknown. All the Lakers speculation made Scott uncomfortable.
“The respect that I have for that organization, that’s a lot of pressure on me and to say I’m going to wait for that job,” Scott said. “To me, that’s kind of crazy because there could be a better candidate. Because I’m a hometown boy and I spent 11 years in the Laker uniform, that’s a lot of pressure. And I don’t think it’s fair to them. I don’t think it’s fair to me.”
There was major risk for any coach to take the Cavaliers job before James made a decision. That unknown played a big role in Lakers assistant Brian Shaw taking his name out the running for the Cavs position. Scott didn’t show the same hesitation, and he was named coach of the Cavaliers on July 1. Soon after, James opted to sign with the Miami Heat.
The Cavaliers knew this would be a tough season after losing James, Shaquille O’Neal(notes), Zydrunas Ilgauskas(notes) and Delonte West(notes) in free agency. They also recently lost forward Anderson Varejao(notes), one of their best players, for the rest of the season because of a foot injury. Despite Cleveland’s struggles and the fact the Lakers’ coaching job could be open this summer, Scott said he has no regrets in taking the Cavs position.
“It’s hard for me because I’m not used to losing,” Scott said. “But the one thing about this whole [rebuilding] situation is I’ve been through it twice. I’ve been through it in Jersey and then I went through it in New Orleans. I’ve been through this situation. I understand how difficult it is.
“It still hurts. I still go home and think about what we could’ve done better, what I could’ve done better. I still go to sleep at 2, 3 in the morning and wake up at 5, 6 in the morning. But the thing about this one now when I wake up at 5 or 6 in the morning, I wake up a little differently. Now I wake up with a fresh pair of eyes saying, ‘Hey, this is another opportunity to get better.’ ”