Byron Scott says he doesn't regret taking Cleveland coaching job
Plenty of external factors stood as a backdrop as Byron Scott interviewed with the Cleveland Cavaliers for the head coaching position.
LeBron James was just approaching free agency, and it remained unclear at the time where he would take his talents. Likewise, Lakers Coach Phil Jackson remained undecided about his coaching future, mulling whether the taxing fatigue and health concerns would be too much to find the lure of three-peating for a fourth time in his career not worth it.
Rather than hinge his decision on what others might do for their future, however, Scott figured it'd be best to make sure he secures his.
"I can't think about what's going to happen in the next two or three years to be honest with you," Scott said. "I couldn't think about (next 12 months either). With what was happening at that particular point, I wanted to take what was the best opportunity, which I still think is, when I started having conversations with Cleveland, I thought that was a great opportunity and great job. I thought so no matter what LeBron was going to do. I'm still very happy about my decision. I'm loving it down here in Cleveland, the fans have been great and organization has been great. That's the bottom line."
As he stood in the hallway outside the Cavaliers' locker room, it's clear Scott's determined attitude has kept him afloat. It'd be only hours before the Lakers beat Cleveland, 112-57, in nearly every facet of the game, dropping the Cavs' record to an Eastern-Conference worst 8-30 record and marking their 21st loss in the past 22 games. It certainly doesn't help that he has seven players on the injured-reserve list including a season-ending right ankle injury to star player Anderson Varejao. It also doesn't help that the Cavaliers lost James, Shaquille O’Neal, Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Delonte West during free agency. Yet, Scott shared with reporters a bold prediction on what he envisions as a suitable timetable before Cleveland becomes contenders again.
"As far as I'm concerned, next year," said Scott, who led the New Jersey Nets in back-to-back NBA Finals appearances in 2002 and 2003 in just his second and third seasons and earned NBA Coach of the Year for leading the New Orleans Hornets to franchise record 56 regular-season wins in the 2007-2008 season. "Once the year is over, next year we're going to obviously make changes to our roster. We got to add some pieces to it. That's how I look at it."
That doesn't mean Scott still doesn't wax nostalgia about the Lakers, whom he helped lead to three NBA championships during the Showtime area. Lakers spokesman John Black approached him in the Cavaliers' locker room 90 minutes before tipoff asking if he needed any extra ticket requests (he politely declined saying he didn't want to worry about it). He reflected on mentoring Kobe Bryant his rookie season, adding that Bryant's willingness to arrive at the Forum at 9 a.m. gave him an indication he'd be the league's best player ("He used to always ask me what it was like in the '80s to play. I told him, 'You would've loved it' because of the type of player he is. The only problem is I probably would've been coming off the bench because he would've been starting"). And he made a bold prediction about the Lakers that will make fans happy ("They're still the team to beat.")
Scott's passion for the Cleveland job also doesn't mean he didn't express interest in the Lakers. In her book, Laker Girl," executive vice president Jeanie Buss reveals that Scott sat in Jerry Buss' suite Jan 5, 2010 nearly two months after the Hornets fired him following a 3-6 start. At the time, Jackson's standing among the organization remained uncertain and Jeanie didn't exactly sound thrilled with learning about the situation through the media.
“I’m a big fan of Byron’s," Jeanie wrote in her book, "but I can’t see him bringing him in for next season because that would mean a radical shift to a whole new offense since he doesn’t run the triangle. Byron likes to use the Princeton offense.”
Scott seconded that notion to Yahoo! Sports' Marc Spears when he shared uncertainty on how much the Lakers were interested in him. But instead of lamenting on what could've been, Scott is embracing the challenge.
"The thing I like about these guys is they just fight everyday," said Scott, who also told Spears he has a three-year deal without an out clause. "They wake up in the morning, have a great attitude in practice and keep working. Obviously we're better young right now. These young guys are getting valuable experience. The wins haven't been there like I wanted it to be, but I'm still having a lot of fun teaching these guys, really trying to make them understand to be in this league and important it is for them to get better each and every day."
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