Byron Scott: Lakers' legacy is key

ByRamona Shelburne ESPN logo
Monday, July 28, 2014

Byron Scott had to wait nearly three months to learn the Los Angeles Lakers had chosen him to be their next head coach.

Then he had to wait a little bit longer for the team to officially announce him as head coach while "we work through some little details" after he and the team agreed in principle on a four-year, $17 million contract Saturday night.

But for the chance to coach the team he won three NBA titles with as a player, he says it will be worth it in the end.

"I'm a little tired tonight," Scott told late Sunday after returning from a trip to the Caribbean. "But I'm extremely excited about the job, extremely excited about the opportunity to bring the purple and gold back up to championship-caliber basketball."

Scott said he's been texting with Lakers star Kobe Bryant throughout the summer and conferring about this season's team. Bryant texted Scott this weekend after news broke that he had accepted the job.

"He told me he was working out with Wesley [Johnson] and Nick [Young]," Scott said. "I told them that sounded great, but they 'better be ready to play some defense.'"

Scott laughed, but he was serious about the message. The Showtime-era Lakers were known for their offense, but they won championships because of their defense. Scott said he intends to bring that edge and discipline to this year's team.

"As a coach you have guys that police each other. This time you really have just Kobe [to do that]," Scott said. "Steve Nash, I love him, he's probably one of the nicest people I've been around. But he's not that ass-kicking type of guy.

"You always need one of those type of guys. In this situation, where it's just Kobe -- who really understands what it means to be a Laker -- and myself, who understands what it means to be a Laker -- you've got two guys coming from two different perspectives, but delivering the same message. That's important. That's important for Swaggy P and Wesley Johnson and Ryan Kelly who need to understand what it means to put that purple and gold on.

"Kobe understands that. It's special when you put that uniform on. You've got to play with that type of pride because you've got a lot of Lakers from the past that are looking at you and wanting you to uphold the Laker brand and the name, and the only way to do that is by winning. Not winning games but winning championships, and that's what we're going to get back to doing."

Just how long it's will take to get back to contending for championships remains to be seen, however. The Lakers have Bryant and Nash -- first-ballot Hall of Famers -- but both are coming off serious injuries in each of the past two seasons.

Beyond that, they have veteran forward Carlos Boozer, point guard Jeremy Lin -- who had one stellar season in New York but two pedestrian years in Houston -- and a group of young players who will try to establish themselves in the NBA.

"I've always been an underdog," Scott said. "Me making it from high school to college and college to the pros, playing with the great players I did and winning championships, I kind of relish this role.

"I relished the role when we were always favored, too. That made us focused every single night because we knew we couldn't take a night off. This role, going in and trying to be a spoiler. It's something we'll enjoy for a little while, and then we'll be back to people chasing us again."

Scott said he's talked with Lakers management about its plan for the future and thinks things can turn around quickly despite the losses of Dwight Howard in 2013 and Pau Gasol this summer.

"It's going to take some time, but I have all the confidence in the world in Mitch [Kupchak] and Jim [Buss]," Scott said of the Lakers' general manager and executive vice president of basketball operations. "I sat down with them a number of times and heard their plan, and I loved it.

"They know what they're doing. We're going to head in the right direction. All I have do is go out there and make sure these guys are held accountable and doing what they're supposed to do. If they do that, we'll give ourselves a chance."

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