The Los Angeles Lakers have struggled in recent years, missing the playoffs for four straight seasons and racking up more losses than the once-mighty franchise is accustomed to. Two of those losing seasons came during the reign of ex-head coach Byron Scott, who quickly lost favor with fans despite his history as a member of the “Showtime” Lakers teams of the 1980s.
Ultimately, last summer Mitch Kupchak and Jim Buss, who were then in charge of Los Angeles’ front office, made the decision not to bring Scott back for a third season. Instead, they hired Golden State Warriors assistant Luke Walton, who was charged with changing the culture of the team and developing the young talent they had amassed.
In a recent interview with Mark Medina of the Southern California News Group, Scott explained his feelings on the matter:
Scott said he “felt betrayed, lied to and deceived” by former Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak and former executive Jim Buss. Though he had only two guaranteed years on his four-year contract, Scott contends that Kupchak and Jim Buss previously promised him they would exercise the team option for his third year. Scott also believes the Lakers used him to manage Bryant during his final seasons and farewell tour before making the coach a scapegoat for the franchise’s struggles.
“If I asked him to do certain things, Kobe would do it because of his respect for me,” said Scott, who mentored Bryant during his rookie season in 1996-97. “Basically, you just wanted me there to help you guys get through the next two years, so Kobe doesn’t go crazy on you guys. I would be the one that can handle it. They know me. I’m not going to back down. I’m not going to be intimidated by anybody.”
While it’s difficult to say whether the Lakers were better off having Scott handle the twilight years of Kobe Bryant’s career, he does bring up an interesting point. Scott was one of Bryant’s mentors during his rookie season, and he would have an easier time managing his final two years than most other coaches would because of that long-cultivated relationship.
It’s also surprising to see that, at least in Scott’s opinion, he had been promised that the Lakers would bring him back for a third season. Given the tumultuous state of the franchise and the difficulties Scott had relating to the team’s young players, it felt as though a change almost had to be made.