When Byron Scott became head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers in 2014, everyone knew it would be a massive rebuilding project, and thus, he was promised several years to turn the franchise around. Instead, he was fired after two seasons with a 38-126 record (.232).
“I think Jeanie (Buss) had nothing to do with it,” Scott said on CBS Sports Radio’s Reiter Than You. “I think this was strictly Mitch (Kupchak) and Jim (Buss), and they decided to make that change despite what we had talked about. That’s their prerogative. They were in a position to do that. That’s what they decided to do. But I don’t think Jeanie had anything to do with it.”
Jeanie, however, exerted herself in other areas, firing Kupchak and stripping Jim Buss of his basketball power. Bill Reiter wondered if Jim Buss was ever qualified to be the vice president of basketball operations in the NBA or if he had the gig simply because of his father.
“I can’t sit here and say he was or he wasn’t,” Scott said. “I didn’t spend enough time with Jim. But obviously at the end of the day, Jeanie didn’t think he was and she made a decision she probably should have made a year or two sooner. I think because of the fact that they were related and they’re brother and sister, she wanted to make sure she gave him every opportunity to be successful and it didn’t work out.”
Jeanie hired Magic Johnson to replace him. Scott, who won three NBA titles with Johnson, loved the move.
“I think those two together will figure out how to get the Lakers back on track,” he said.
Their plan, it is worth noting, may or may not involve trading for Paul George. The Palmdale, California, native averaged 23.7 points per game for the Pacers this season but is reportedly interested in playing for the Lakers, who have lost 55+ games in four straight seasons.
Would George make Los Angeles a contender?
“Well, not with just Paul,” Scott said. “Paul’s going to need help, but it does do one thing: It gets them back in the conversation, and it gets them going quicker on that fast track to being back as a contender – not only (for) the playoffs, but for championships for years to come. We do know Paul George is a star. He’s a great basketball player, and he’s pretty much come out and said he would love to be in L.A. So Indiana has some things to think about this summer because you don’t want him to leave and you don’t get anything back for him. But if he comes with the pieces that they have right now, they obviously win a lot more games, but I still don’t think in the West that it makes them a team that can really frighten people in the playoff hunt.”
In other news, Scott was asked about LeBron James’ legacy as perhaps the greatest player of all time. James, 32, is a four-time MVP, a three-time NBA champion, a three-time Finals MVP and a 13-time All-Star.
“Well, obviously he’s not done,” Scott said. “This is his 14th season and he had career numbers in a number of categories. This guy is still playing at an extremely high level. Once he’s done, I think we’re all going to be comparing him to the greatest of all time and he’ll be in that conversation, there’s no doubt about it. But he wants to continue to win championships. That’s his main goal. I think he looks at Michael Jordan and Magic and Kobe and guys like that who have five, six rings, and he wants to get in that category. He knows if he gets to that level, then he is in that conversation. So you got to just marvel at his talent.
“I think sometimes we as fans take what LeBron does for granted because he does it on a night-to-night basis,” Scott continued. “Every year he probably could be MVP of this league, but because he does it so effortlessly and he does it so often, a lot of us just take it for granted. When he’s gone, I think we’ll all really start to realize how great this guy is.”
Scott also discussed his new book, “Slam-Dunk Success: Leading from Every Position on Life’s Court,” which he co-authored with business executive Charlie Norris. In addition to winning three NBA titles, Scott twice led the New Jersey Nets to the NBA Finals and in 2008 was named NBA Coach of the Year in New Orleans. He discusses numerous topics in the book, including success, failure, and leadership.
“I didn’t have a whole lot of failures as a player,” he said. “I was very blessed playing all the way up from elementary to the professional levels. I didn’t have a whole lot of disappointments or failures. So when I got to the coaching level, it changed a little bit after the first couple of stints with New Jersey and New Orleans and then going to Cleveland and L.A. I learned a lot more about myself and a lot more about how to deal with failures (as a coach) than I did when I was a player.”