The Cleveland Cavaliers have had several coaches in their history, but none quite like Byron Scott. Their original coach Bill Fitch, was a former Marine Corps drill instructor who also had a thing for a plaid suits. Other coaches, like George Karl, Chuck Daly, and Lenny Wilkens that went on to have greater success with other teams. Then there is Mike Brown, the coach for the majority of the LeBron era that could not quite get the Cavs over the hump.
Unlike these other coaches, Byron Scott has a track record of success. He took the New Jersey Nets to the NBA Finals twice in his four seasons as coach with a core of Jason Kidd, Richard Jefferson, and Vince Carter. His teams had no inside play, which cost them against the San Antonio Spurs. His next coaching gig, with the New Orleans Hornets, was not nearly as successful, but he was accredited with helping a young Chris Paul blossom into a star.
The other characteristic of Coach Scott that stands out is his status as a former NBA player. He was never a star, as he was projected to be as the #4 overall pick in 2983, but he was a key member of the Showtime-era Los Angeles Lakers. Playing alongside Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Scott was a stalwart for the Lakers for a decade. In fact, in 1987-1988, he led the Lakers In scoring with 21.7 points per game. When he left the Lakers in 1993 ,played for the Vancouver Grizzlies and Indiana Pacers before coming back to LA in 1996 to serve as a mentor for the Lakers number one draft pick Kobe Bryant, then only eighteen years of age. After the 1996-1997 season, Scott played for the Greek League team Panathinaikos before retiring from professional basketball.
It should be noted that Scott’s first head coaching gig came only two years after becoming an assistant coach. Other former NBA players like Patrick Ewing have not gotten jobs in such short times. He learned on the fly, and did will with a core that, looking back, wasn’t all that talented. His next gig, in New Orleans, was even harder because his only true talent was the aforementioned Paul. In Cleveland, it’s a similar situation, as his only upper echelon talents, as of last season, were Kyrie Irving and Anderson Varejao. Last season, Irving’s rookie season, saw Irving Varejao both hurt for long stretches. It forced Scott to play with one of the least talented rotations In the league, and considering it all, he didn’t do a bad job. After all, he was relying on Daniel Gibson as a primary scorer.
As a coach, Scott is known as no nonsense leader. He demands a certain level of effort and commitment that few coaches do. His training camps are notoriously known for being difficult, and also a true test of a player’s conditioning. In fact, due in large to his reputation as a no nonsense leader, he was voted number two in poll of coaches you’d least like to play for despite leading two teams to the NBA Finals. The one knock on Scott is that he tends to rely on veterans in negligence of cultivating young talent. Paul is the exception to that, as is Irving. But other than that, it’s hard to name a young player that Scott has helped grow into a star or at least a solid role player. Granted, he appears to be committed to helping Dion Waiters, the Cavaliers top draft pick, grow and becoming a solid player, so hopefully we are seeing a change in his style.
Despite my concerns that Coach Scott is willing to cultivate talent, I think he is a great fit as the Cavs coach short and long term. As a former player, he garners respect in the locker room, and as mentioned before, has a track record of winning in the post season. Best of all, he seems to have a good relationship with Irving, something LeBron did not seem to have with Mike Brown or any other Cavaliers coach. The duo seems to get along, and their chemistry can help the Cavaliers carry out Scott’s vision of defense first, tough, low turnover basketball team. I expect Scott to be around for a while – so look for him to be on the Cavaliers sidelines for a long time.