EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — Byron Scott had one very simple message to convey to his team and its supporters Tuesday morning at the Lakers’ practice facility.
"This organization is about championships. Period," he said. "We don’t care about Western Conference Championships or anything else."
The new head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers knows the Laker Way better than any other candidate. The guard that helped lead the Showtime Lakers of the 1980s to three NBA Championships came to terms with the organization earlier this week to become the team’s 24th head coach. It capped a nearly three-month long search and brings Scott, an L.A. native out of Morningside High School in Inglewood, back to the Lakers 17 years later.
Flanked by his friends and former Showtime teammates Jamaal Wilkes, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson, Scott felt that he was finally back where belonged.
"We wish we could put on a uniform for you and help you," Johnson said. "Congratulations to the Laker organization; you chose the right guy."
Scott watched the tumultuous 2013-14 season play out from the booth and had plenty to say about the team as a broadcaster. Now as a head coach, he’s forced to answer the same burning questions that have been on everyone’s mind since the franchise began to truly struggle two years ago.
Scott could possibly be Kobe Bryant’s last NBA head coach, and while Bryant’s always been known to challenges his coaches before, this might be a little different, seeing as how Scott served as a mentor of sorts to a rookie Bryant in 1996-97.
"We have a great relationship," he said. "’m looking forward to coaching Kobe. I know his drive and I know his dedication. I think we’re on the same page as far as how we approach this game and want to play. So it’s going to be fun, but he has to be patient."
Patience has never been a strength of Bryant’s, but Scott said that this time he knows he has no choice.
What offense will be used?
No one has been able to use the triangle offense like Phil Jackson. Following Jackson’s departure, Mike Brown came in and instituted the vastly difference Princeton offense. And Mike D’Antoni brought, of course, the run-and-gun.
Eloquent line by Jamaal Wilkes: "I’m happy to see Byron with a tie to the past but more importantly a bridge to the future"
Scott plans to use all three, although just how he plans to do that is still somewhat vague.
"It’s going to be a mixture of a little bit of everything that I’ve done in New Jersey, New Orleans and Cleveland," he said. "There are a lot of different sets that you can call in the Princeton offense, there’s like five different sets. And we won’t get into all of the them and we won’t even try and work on all of them. It’s going to be a mixture of things that I think can make this team successful."
Scott ran a version of the Princeton offense in both New Jersey and Cleveland after taking over for Brown. It’s complicated, and for a roster full of new, young players like the Lakers have, his offensive philosophy needs to be somewhat flexible in order to allow them to develop.
But offensive or defensive, the one thing that Scott plans to preach is accountability.
"If they don’t (perform), I take them out of the game. Pretty simple," he said. "Guys that don’t compete, there’s consequences. The only thing that you can really control with players is their minutes. That gets their attention."
How long before they win championships again?
When Scott was in talks with the Buss family and general manager Mitch Kupchak, a specific timetable wasn’t discussed. Basketball philosophy and organizational philosophy were valued a little higher than winning a championship tomorrow, because the thought is that as long as the foundation is there, the championships will eventually come.
"Yeah, we have a roster that was just put together in the last month," Kupchak said. "But we still have one of the best players in the NBA, and we feel we have some talent. It’s going to take some time to work our way through it and think about the best way to play. But certainly getting off on the right step is a factor, and we knew that would happen bringing Byron back to Los Angeles."
"We didn’t get into all of that," added Scott. "We talked about basketball and not timetables. But I don’t think long."