Byron Scott expects to be back with Lakers, dismisses coaching critics

ByBaxter Holmes ESPN logo
Saturday, April 16, 2016

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Los Angeles Lakers head coach Byron Scott said Friday that he "absolutely" expects to maintain his role next season, despite the Lakers' posting the worst record in franchise history in each of the two seasons since he was hired.

"Absolutely," Scott said two days after the team closed its 2015-16 season with a win over the Utah Jazz, which gave the Lakers a franchise-worst 17-65 record.

Scott, who has one more guaranteed year on his deal, said he has not yet met with Lakers management to discuss his future with the team, nor has he been given assurances that he'll coach the team moving forward.

"I don't need that," Scott said. "There's going to come a time where we're going to talk, I do understand that, and I do understand this business.

"As I told you [media] from day one, and it's still to this day, this is my dream job. This is my dream job, and obviously, you want the opportunity to turn it all around, and you hope you get that. But I understand the business of basketball. It's all about wins and losses, and I understand that as well.

"But I think over the last couple of years, the process that we've tried to implement is in place, and obviously, this summer is an awfully big summer for us, and I'm looking forward to it as the head coach of the team until they tell me differently."

Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said Friday that he and Lakers part-owner and executive vice president Jim Buss plan to have an "informal lunch" with Scott at some point in the next two weeks.

"He's under contract, and if anything changes, we'll be the first to let you know," Kupchak said of Scott's coaching status. "Everybody gets reviewed. I'm sure over the last 16 years, behind closed doors, people were talking about me and reviewing me as well. Anything is possible. Right now, all I anticipate is some informal meetings and then moving forward from there."

The Lakers have been in rebuilding mode since Kobe Bryant ruptured his Achilles in April 2013. All-Star center Dwight Howard left the team for less money elsewhere the following offseason, then All-Star center Pau Gasol did the same in the summer of 2014.

Bryant, meanwhile, hasn't been the same dominant player since his Achilles injury. The five-time champion suffered consecutive season-ending injuries in the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons. He played 66 games this past season before retiring.

Meanwhile, the Lakers have struck out in free agency in each of the past three offseasons and haven't reached the playoffs in three straight seasons, the longest playoff drought in franchise history.

"If our fans are sitting there really thinking that I'm happy with the way we've played the last two years, then they're out of their minds," Scott said. "We knew the last couple of years were going to be difficult, but you still have a game plan in place, and we're going to try to carry that game plan out."

Scott, a former Laker who won three championships with the team in the 1980s, is 38-126 (.232) as head coach. That's the second-worst win percentage by any Lakers coach in franchise history. The worst is by George Mikan (9-30, .231). Scott has the worst career win percentage (.412) among NBA coaches who have coached at least 1,000 games.

Scott has faced heated criticism from Lakers fans and others all season for his tough-love approach and harsh public criticism of the Lakers' promising young players, whom he frequently moved in and out of the lineup, varying their minutes.

"I roll with the punches because you guys, they, those guys -- they're not in here every day," Scott said of his critics. "They don't see what we're doing in practice. They don't see how we're preparing these guys, so they have no clue ... all they're doing is voicing their opinion, and to be honest with you, I'm much smarter than all of them when it comes to basketball."

All season, the Lakers struggled to balance celebrating Bryant throughout his 20th season with developing their young talent. Last season, the Lakers were riddled by injuries, though in both seasons they lacked the talent to be truly competitive.

"I think Byron has done an excellent job, under the circumstances that he's had to deal with the last two years," Kupchak said. "This year in particular was a difficult year for a coach to wade his way through."

Regarding his brash style with young players, Scott said he has "mellowed out a little" the past two seasons. He added that he's still the same "fiery guy" he has always been.

Kupchak was asked if the young players have responded well to Scott.

"We have to wait a couple years to see," Kupchak said. "You're not going to get results in a month or three or four with players who are 19 and 20 and 21. You have to provide the structure, and it's going to take some time. He's paving the way.

"I know he's hoping that he coaches here forever. But a lot of times, what we do is we're really preparing for the next [general manager] or the next coach, and that's tough sometimes. I mentioned earlier, veteran coaches want veteran players, because it does take time to develop young players. So we'll know in two to three years how effective Byron was as a parent to the young guys on this team."