Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak. (Robert Casillas – Staff Photographer)
With the Lakers parting ways with Byron Scott on Sunday night, they did not just try to cleanse themselves from two seasons that ended with their worst record in franchise history. The Lakers also hoped to find the right coach for what will mark their fourth search since Phil Jackson retired in 2011.
As of now, the Lakers are treating how to fill their current coaching vacancy with an open mind. They plan to compile a “long list of people,” as one person familiar with the situation said. Those candidates will include varying backgrounds and degrees of coaching experience.
In this March 28, 2014 file photo, Connecticut coach Kevin Ollie shouts instructions during the first half in a regional semifinal against Iowa State in the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II, File)
Count Connecticut coach Kevin Ollie as one of the many presumed candidates who would be interested in coaching the Lakers.
Although he has remained happy coaching the Huskies for the past four years, Ollie finds the Lakers’ head-coaching vacancy intriguing, according to a source familiar with his thinking.
Though it would be viewed as a common courtesy, the Lakers would not need to seek permission from the Huskies to interview Ollie. Unlike coaches on opposing NBA teams, no NCAA program can levy tampering charges. But some complications could emerge surrounding Ollie’s contract should the Lakers want to hire him to replace Byron Scott.
Ollie has three years left on his contract with UConn after signing a five-year extension in 2014. But with former Huskies athletic director Warde Manuel leaving for the University of Michigan earlier this season, Ollie has a clause in his contract that would allow him to leave for another team without incurring fees from a buyout, according to sources familiar with the deal. A source added, however, those terms would not go into effect until March, 2017, though the costs are believed to be relatively nominal.
Byron Scott is out as coach of Lakers after two season. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht/LA Daily News, File)
The criticism mounted as Byron Scott oversaw the Lakers finish with their worst record in franchise history for two consecutive years. That only increased over Scott’s stern approach toward a young roster that showed both upside and a learning curve.
All of which Lakers rookie forward Larry Nance Jr. considered “not fair.”
“He had a lot of pressure on him that didn’t really allow him to open up and coach,” Nance told the Southern California News Group about Scott. “Sometimes that’s how it goes, and the politics get the best of it. I feel for him — this was an impossible job.”
Lakers exit interviews with Lakers coach Byron Scott and GM Mitch Kupchak Friday April 15, 2016. Coach Scott talks about last quarter of Kobe Bryant’s legendary final game. Photo By Robert Casillas / Daily Breeze
After overseeing the Lakers finish with their worst record in franchise history for two consecutive years, Byron Scott will not coach the Lakers in the 2016-17 season, according sources familiar with the situation.
It is not immediately clear who will replace Scott or if any of his assistants will be retained, including Paul Pressey, Mark Madsen, Larry Lewis, Jim Eyen and Thomas Scott. The Lakers lost out on potential coaching candidates after mulling Scott’s future for the week. Those possibilities included Tom Thibodeau (Minnesota) and Scott Brooks (Washington). Possible replacements for Scott could include Golden State Warriors assistant Luke Walton, former Rockets and Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy, UConn coach Kevin Ollie and San Antonio Spurs assistant Ettore Messina.
Accounts initially categorized Scott’s third year of his contract as guaranteed. But Scott’s third year is actually not fully guaranteed, according to a league source familiar with the terms. The Lakers also had a team option on Scott for the 2017-18 season.
Scott will end his two-year stint with the Lakers with a combined 38-126 record, which pits up just above George Mikan for the franchise’s worst all-time winning percentage among their 20 coaches. Scott compiled a .232 winning percentage, while Mikan had a .231 winning percentage when the 1958 Minneapolis Lakers went 9-30.
LA Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak said coach Byron Scott “has done an excellent job under the circumstances that he’s had to deal with the last two years.” Photos by Brad Graverson/LANG/09-24-15
It usually seems like a foregone conclusion the Lakers make changes anytime their season does not end in a championship parade. Therefore, it seems inevitable a shakeup will happen after the Lakers finished the 2015-16 campaign with a franchise-worst 17-65 record.
Yet, Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak argued that coach Byron Scott “has done an excellent job under the circumstances that he’s had to deal with the last two years.” As Scott finished with a combined 38-126 through two years, the Lakers became mindful of a few things.
After playing only 35 games in the 2014-15 season because of season-ending right shoulder surgery, Kobe Bryant’s presence in his 20th and final season brought challenges with both his health and the hoopla surround his farewell tour. The Lakers also fielded a roster this season filled with talented albeit inexperienced players in D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle, Larry Nance Jr. and Anthony Brown.
Scott and Kupchak spent most of Thursday completing exit meetings with players on Thursday. Kupchak shared he also spoke with Scott on Friday for about 45 minutes. But Kupchak did not articulate Scott’s job status other than saying he’s “under contract” entering the third season of a four-year deal worth $17 million. Kupchak added he plans to meet with Scott and Lakers vice president of basketball operations Jim Buss in “an informal lunch at some point in the next week or two.”
“Anything is possible,” Kupchak said. “All I anticipate is some informal meetings and moving on from there.”
Lakers coach Byron Scott said he believes he will coach next season. (photo by John McCoy/Los Angeles News Group)
Despite not receiving any assurances from the Lakers’ front office, Byron Scott hardly flinched on whether he thinks he will coach the Lakers in the 2016-17 season.
“Yeah,” Scott said. “Absolutely.”
Scott said he has not had any conversations with Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak or executive vice president of basketball operations surrounding his job status. Scott added no one has any meetings scheduled. Yet, Scott maintained, “I think we’re all on the same page.”
Back when the Lakers hired Scott two years ago, he expressed optimism about rebuilding a franchise back into purple and gold glory after winning three NBA championships during the Showtime Era. Yet, Scott has overseen the Lakers go a combined 38-126 through the past two seasons. Those marks became bad enough to represent the Lakers worst records in franchise history in consecutive years.
“I have to assess the job I’ve done. Guys know here I’m not happy with the way we’ve played as a basketball team,” Scott said. “That’s the price you pay with young guys to develop. But overall the record is what it is, and that’s what you’re judged by.”
Lakers guard Jordan Clarkson said he wants to return to the Lakers. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht/Los Angeles Daily News)
Once the experiences no longer feel like a blur, Jordan Clarkson has plenty of stories he could tell about playing in Kobe Bryant’s final game that ended with a throw-back 60-point performance.
Clarkson could marvel at Bryant’s greatness. Clarkson could gush on being part of Bryant’s last play that entailed throwing a cross-court pass that ended with Clarkson dunking the ball. Clarkson could wax poetic on the large embrace Bryant gave him, D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle following the Lakers’ 101-96 win over the Utah Jazz on Wednesday at Staples Center.
That moment could arguably bring back reminders on why Clarkson intends to re-sign with the Lakers once he becomes a restricted free agent this offseason.
“I feel confident I’ll be back here. I want to be here. After seeing last night, it was crazy,” Clarkson said on Thursday after his exit meeting at the Lakers’ facility in El Segundo. “I want to be one of those guys that is not bouncing around from team to team. I want to be somewhere where I can come home and leave my mark or legacy or somewhere I can call home. I feel like this is the place I can do that.”
Lakers forward Metta World Peace hopes he can extend his NBA future. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
The stories seemingly could last forever.
Metta World Peace gushed about Kobe Bryant’s last game. World Peace provided both support and constructive criticism toward his young teammates. Before he went into great detail on both subjects, World Peace offered strong public support toward Lakers coach Byron Scott without any solicitation.
The Lakers may have finished with a 17-65 record in what marked the franchise’s worst mark in history. Yet, World Peace argued that Scott “has my vote for Coach of the Year” because of so many extenuating circumstances.
“Coach Scott had a tough season. I don’t know how he did it with the retirement and farewell tour,” World Peace said. “He’s not able to have a full practice at all during the season with the whole unit and then had to go out and coach that unit. On top of that, he’s having young guys you’re trying to teach and manage at the same time.”
Nick Young is not expected to stay with the Lakers. (Photo by John McCoy/Los Angeles News Group)
For one brief moment, the smile returned on Nick Young’s face.
The Lakers’ forward found joy in witnessing Kobe Bryant drop 60 points in his final game in the Lakers’ season-ending win over Utah on Wednesday at Staples Center. The reasons went beyond watching a supportive teammate, enjoying a champagne bath or Bryant taking a picture with his son. Young grew up idolizing Young as a standout at Cleveland High in Reseda and USC.
“It seemed like it was made up, like the end of the movie. All movies end on a great note,” Young said. “I couldn’t believe this. He ended with an assist though. He should’ve ended it with a shot. That’s not the Kobe I know!”
Young has plenty more to complain about than playfully nitpicking Bryant’s fifth highest scoring performance in his 20-year NBA career. He averaged 7.3 points on a career-low 33.9 percent clip. Young missed the last 17 games, 15 of which were considered healthy scratches. Young also had unresolved personal issues with Lakers rookie point guard D’Angelo Russell, who secretly recorded a video that showed Young admitting to infidelities.
Hence, Young echoed the skepticism the Lakers will retain him despite having two years left on his $11 million. The Lakers will either trade him or negotiate a buyout.
“You never know what’s going to happen. You know something’s got to happen,” Young said. “The Lakers will make decisions for the Lakers. It’s a business. We did win 17 games after all. Something is going to happen.”
Young hardly shied away from his hope on what he hopes happens.
“I just want to play basketball again,” Young said. “Wherever that is at, I want to enjoy being out there and playing the game I love and having fun again.”
Los Angeles Lakers guard Louis Williams #23 takes and misses the last shot of the game. The Lakers lost to the Minnesota Timberwolves 112-111 in the opening game of the 2015-16 NBA season. Los Angeles, CA, 10/28/2015 (photo by John McCoy/Los Angeles News Group)
The job description for Lou Williams usually involved something pretty simple.
Score the basketball.
In his first season of a three-year, $21 million deal with the Lakers, it turned out Williams’ role became much more than just averaging 15.3 points on 40.8 percent shooting in in 67 games.
Williams competed for minutes with the Lakers’ young core with D’Angelo Russell and Jordan Clarkson. Williams eventually started over Russell 20 games into the season only to lose the spot shortly after the NBA All-Star break. During that time, Williams became one of the team’s most vocal leaders behind the scenes.
“I still think there’s potential there,” Williams said following his exit meeting on Thursday at the Lakers’ facility in El Segundo. “The upside is brighter than what it’s shown. I feel like we have a lot of potential.”
Yet, Williams did not walk away with too many positive impressions. The reasons went beyond the Lakers finishing 17-65 in what marked their worst record in franchise history. Williams also contended,” “sometimes I felt like we weren’t hungry enough.”
He then shared that he often preached that his younger teammates should have adopted some of his mindset during his 11-year NBA career. Then, Williams often found ways to motivate him besides winning, such as embracing potential Sixth Man of the Year matchups with current teammate Nick Young when they played on opposing teams.
“Sometimes I feel like we didn’t look at games like that when our younger core was playing against their peers,” Williams said. “At the same time, we have guys that are right up there with other guys that are having success in this league. They just have to understand how to do that every night.”