In his first two seasons as coach of the Cavaliers, Byron Scott is 40-108. He has lost 26 games in a row, the best player in franchise history left a week after he arrived and his .270 winning percentage is third-worst among NBA coaches (minimum 90 games) the past two years, according to Elias Sports Bureau.
Yet anyone expecting Scott to bolt for the Los Angeles Lakers as soon as the opportunity arises can forget it. In his strongest comments since taking over the Cavs, Scott reaffirmed his commitment to the organization and was adamant he has no intention of leaving anytime soon for the Lakers.
“I love where I am. I love the situation I’m in and I’ve got the right people around me,” Scott told the Beacon Journal prior to a summer league game in Las Vegas this week. “I tell people that in L.A. that ask me all the time about if that Laker job comes open. I am happy as hell here.”
Scott is beginning the third and final guaranteed season on his contract, but it appears both sides are eager to continue the partnership. The team holds an option for the 2013-14 season and preliminary talks about an extension have already started. The highest-ranking officials within the organization, from owner Dan Gilbert to General Manager Chris Grant, are thrilled with the way Scott has handled the youth on the Cavs roster.
He has managed to take a collection of players ranging from a top overall pick to undrafted rookies and has blended them into a young, exciting team. He is tough on youngsters, painfully blunt in both his praise and his criticism. He answers questions directly, refuses to be a “yes” man to anyone and runs one of the league’s most grueling training camps. It’s perhaps why he was ranked third on a recent Sports Illustrated list of coaches that players would least like to play for, yet all the youngsters on the Cavs roster rave about him.
More importantly, so does ownership.
“We think Byron has been great for the franchise,” Gilbert said after the season. “He is the consummate professional in every possible way. He hardly ever gets rattled one way or another. I think he brings stability to the team and the franchise, he brings credibility and we love having Byron Scott here as the coach of the Cavaliers.”
Rarely does a coach with such a poor record have the full support of ownership and the front office, but the Cavs are committed to rebuilding through the draft and understand they haven’t given Scott the type of roster that is equipped to compete in the NBA.
The Cavs could’ve easily burned through some of their cap space this summer and added a veteran scorer like O.J. Mayo or Michael Beasley in free agency. Adding a couple of veterans could have produced a handful more victories next season, but the Cavs front office understands the worst place to be in the NBA is stuck in the middle.
High picks offer hope for the future and low picks in the first round are typically the product of on-court success. Teams caught in the middle are trapped in a state of purgatory that is difficult to escape.
By sticking with their plan of building through the draft, the Cavs believe they’re probably one more difficult season and another high draft pick away from legitimately dreaming about a substantial postseason run. That doesn’t make it any easier, however, when the losses start piling up in January and February.
“As a coach, you want to win now. You want all the ammo you can get,” Scott said. “I understand our process and our game plan.”
He said Grant will sometimes apologize for refusing to bite on a free agent or make a trade beneficial only for the short term, but Scott doesn’t get upset.
“I’m in this for the long run,” he said. “I’m in this thing for the long haul where we can be good and successful for years to come. Just like any other coach, I want to win now and I want all the pieces to be there. Sometimes patience is the best thing you can do and understanding the whole situation. I understand completely where we are and what we have to do.”
Scott hasn’t always been so direct when discussing his future with the Cavs. It’s no secret coaching the Lakers has always been his dream after growing up in the shadows of the Great Western Forum and winning three championship rings as a player there.
He knew when he accepted this job that Phil Jackson would soon be retiring and he would have an excellent chance at replacing him. He instead moved ahead with the Cavs, always keeping the Lakers in the periphery.
The Lakers have an aging roster that just grew even older with the trade for Steve Nash. Although the addition of Dwight Howard remains a possibility, Kobe Bryant, Paul Gasol and Nash are all nearing the end of their careers. The Lakers sacrificed a number of future picks to bring Nash on board, limiting their future flexibility.
Certainly the Lakers remain one of the league’s best teams now, but their near future is murky. Scott, however, is thrilled with the close relationship he has already carved with Kyrie Irving. The Cavs have three players selected in the top four the past two years, millions in cap space and an overflow of future draft picks.
“I’m happy with this organization. I love Dan [Gilbert] and Nate [Forbes] and Jeff [Cohen],” Scott said, referring to the Cavs ownership group. “Those guys have been unbelievable. They’ve all been about one thing — winning.
“I love the way [Grant] handles his job, I love the way we interact. We don’t always agree, which is good. The dynamics of everything that we have in Cleveland, I am content and thrilled to be here. I want to be here to win that championship.”
Jason Lloyd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Cavs blog at http://www.ohio.com/cavs. Follow him on Twitter http://www.twitter.com/JasonLloydABJ. Follow ABJ sports on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.