Fans of the Los Angeles Lakers have not forgotten that — despite winning the NBA championship in 2020 — the team spent much of the 2010s in the NBA’s basement. Front office dysfunction, a never-ending coaching carousel and desperately waiting for draft picks to develop into All-Stars left the Lakers with years of lottery picks and disappointment.
Head coach Byron Scott defined that era with two of the worst years of Lakers basketball.
Scott coached the Lakers from 2014-16, spending two full seasons with the team. He finished with a total record of 38-126 before being fired. Not only that, but he constantly had power struggles with Lakers No. 2 overall pick D’Angelo Russell.
It was clear Russell — who was a rookie at the time — was one of the best players on the team, but Scott would often bench him as learning experiences.
Russell does not look back fondly on his rookie season with Scott, ripping his ability to coach and his decision making in an excerpt from Jake Fischer’s new book “Built To Lose: How the NBA’s Tanking Era Changed the League Forever,” via Austin Boyd of Heavy.com:
Russell, frankly, disagrees. Scott didn’t handle sophomore forward Julius Randle with the same kids gloves. “He’s an idiot,” Russell says of his coach.
Russell felt Scott often yanked him from close contests purely to spark controversy and attention for his postgame media availability. “I just think he was malicious for no reason,” Russell says. “He’s a solid man. But as a coach, he was bad. He was just bad at his job.”
Scott was just another attempt in the Lakers quest to find a Phil Jackson replacement. It’s hard to say if he was noticeably worse than Mike Brown, Mike D’Antoni or Luke Walton, but he certainly struggled to get Russell to buy-in.
The Lakers ultimately wound up trading Russell to the Brooklyn Nets along with Timofey Mozgov in exchange for Brook Lopez and a first-round pick. Russell’s fit in L.A. never truly came to fruition and he became an All-Star with the Nets, so it was a win-win for all involved.
Still, it’s clear that Russell’s lone season with Scott gave the former coach a bad reputation. He has not been hired as a head coach since and it’s very likely that he never gets hired again despite winning the NBA’s Coach of the Year award in 2008.
Vogel part of Lakers future
All of the struggles to find a head coach led the Lakers right to Frank Vogel, who led the team to a championship in 2020 and is now could be signing a long-term extension. The 2021-22 season is his third year of a three-year contract, meaning if he wants to stay in L.A. and the Lakers want to keep him, now is the time to negotiate.
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