The Lakers introduced their new coach, former Showtime member Byron Scott, at a news conference Tuesday. It began with surprise appearances by former Lakers greats Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Jamaal Wilkes, and included an introduction and comments by Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak. The questions that begin in the middle of the transcript were posed by members of the media on hand.
“Before I begin and introduce Byron, I just want to thank him for his patience. Over the last six or seven weeks, it was always clear to us that Byron was our first choice, and we did multiple interviews and stayed in touch. But in this business, when time plays out and things linger, I know there’s some uncertainty and tension and testing of patience. Here we are, introducing Byron Scott as the head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, so thank you for sticking with us and being patient over the last six or seven weeks.
“Before I introduce Byron, I’d like to introduce some of his friends who came out today to show him support.”
“We came here today to support our brother and our former teammate and champion, Byron Scott, and also we’re here to support the organization. This is a great day for all former Lakers as well as Laker fans all over the world. We’re just excited for what Byron will bring to the table and get back to playing Laker basketball. Also we’re happy that Jim and Jeanie and Mitch chose Byron as the coach. I know Mychal Thompson wanted to be here, he’s supporting his son but he wanted to be here. Coop almost came off his, you know he had surgery, but he told me to tell you he loves you and that’d be here if he hasn’t had the surgery. As well as James Worthy, who is in Europe. We’re excited, we wish we could put a uniform on and help you, but we’re here supporting you and will support you throughout. Again, congratulations to the Laker organization. You chose the right guy.”
“As far as I’m concerned, I’m just thrilled to see my good friend and running buddy, Mr. Scott here, back here where he belongs. It’s great that L.A. takes care of its own like this, and it’s wonderful to see Byron back here. His confidence and leadership and knowledge of the game will definitely benefit this team, and hopefully this is the point where things start to turn around. Welcome home B, we’re going to be down there bothering you every night.”
“I’d also like to add that I’m happy to see Byron as a tie to the past but more importantly as a bridge to the future. We think he’s the right guy, as Earvin and Kareem have eloquently stated. Other guys wanted to be here from your Showtime team, because of the high regard we all have for you, and we wish and hope for the best. Like Kareem said, we’re going to be bothering you.”
“I have so many people to thank. Those three guys who were just up there. Three of the greatest teammates and three of the greatest people you will ever meet, and drove me to be the best that I could be on the basketball court and as a person as well. I’d like to thank my family that’s here obviously today. Emmanuel, my attorney. [Gary] Vitti, my main man from way back in the day. Jeanie and Jim have been fantastic. Mitch has been unbelievable, another teammate of mine. The one thing I will say is that this has been a dream of mine for so long. It’s a dream come true to be here sitting and talking to you guys today and be introduced as the head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers. As I told Mitch and Jim in our meetings, the passion and the love that I have for this organization is second to none. The only thing I regret is that Dr. Buss isn’t here today. He’s somebody who showed a lot of love and confidence in me back in the day, and a guy that you could call any time, a guy that could call you any time and you could talk to him about anything. Like, basketball, money, anything. I just wish he was here today. But as I told Jim and Jeanie, I’m going to do everything in my power to make those guys proud, the Buss family proud, and do everything I can to bring this team back to where we know it should be. This organization is all about championships. Period. We don’t look at Western Conference finals, Western Conference championships. We look at championships. We know we have some work ahead of us, I’m excited. Just thrilled to death. I’m eager, and just ready to get to work. I know it’s going to be a challenge, but I look forward do it. I love challenges anyway, so this is going to be fun. I want to thanks Mitch again for his due diligence, and Mitch as well. They wanted to thank me for their patience, but I’ve always been a very patient guy. I just had to get out of town for a few days just to relax from all the fans who were asking me all the questions every single day, but patience is a virtue and it’s well worth it. I’m glad to be back with this organization, which I think is the best in all of sports.”
How emotional is this day for you?
“I pride myself on being one of the toughest guys around, working with Buck in the weight room and working through all of the things that we went through, but I went up there and talked to Jeanie for a while, and we started to mention her father and my ex-boss, and I think we both got a little teary-eyed. I don’t think that I could state this any deeper, how I feel about this organization. What I plan on bringing to the table as far as my passion for the game and what I want to do with the team, and obviously talking to Mitch and Jim, in the plans in the meetings that we had, I could see it clear as day what they were planning on doing, and I thought it was a great idea, so I think this is the perfect fit. It’s hard for me to contain right now some of the things that I’m going through, but I have to, because I have kids over there I don’t want them seeing Daddy cry, or my grandparents seeing pop pop cry. I’ll probably do that a little bit later.”
Has the waiting bothered you?
“Not really. I take everything in stride. Like Mitch said, we had conversations on different occasions, and like I said, I have a lot of confidence in what I can do and bring to the table, and I have a lot of confidence in Jim, Jeanie and Mitch. I just thought they were making the right decision, the best decision, and I’m a little arrogant when it comes to that because I thought I was the right decision, so the waiting didn’t really bother me. The only thing that bothered me were the questions I would get asked every day from fans, and that didn’t really bother me, it just takes a toll after a while. The wait didn’t bother me really at all.”
Catching up to do?
“Yeah I’ve got some catching up to do. Again, Mitch and I will sit down. Got to put a staff together. I got to get myself familiar with the roster. So yeah, I’ve got some work to do, but more than willing and able to get it done.”
“The one thing I told Mitch and Jim at our last meeting was that I thought they put a roster together that will be very competitive. The main thing I have to do right away is establish ourselves as a defensive basketball team. These three gentlemen that’s sitting in this front row, the first that Magic taught me when I got in this league is that we win championships by defending every single night. That’s the one thing we can control. Offense is going to come and go. You’re going to miss shots, you’re going to make shots. But the one thing you control every single night is your effort on the defensive end. So we have to obviously get that back in the plans. Guys have to understand that that’s what it’s going to take and they have to be held accountable for that. But I like the roster that Mitch has put together. It’s a little bit of some youth and some experienced guys and I’m looking forward to working with them.”
“Well I think the first thing you got to do is get them thinking like we used to think. Because everything to me is — if you’re winning it’s contagious. If you’re losing it’s contagious. So you got to change their mind-set. That’s the first thing we got to do. The first day of training camp is all about winning. It’s nothing else. You don’t think about losing, you think about winning. And when you lose games, you shouldn’t be sitting in the locker room having a good time. It should hurt. Again, with those three gentlemen when we lost games, it was quiet as could be in the locker room because we didn’t expect to lose. We got to get our guys thinking the same way. We got to get back to winning.”
High school in Inglewood….
“Let’s not go that far back, please.
“I would say God is good. God is good. Like I said, everything that I always set out to do or dreams that I had I’ve been able to for some reason, and it’s obviously my heavenly father, I’ve been put there. I used to sneak in the Forum and watch Jerry West and those guys play thinking that one day I would be a Laker. And boom I get to be a Laker. I get into coaching and start thinking about coaching and said, ‘One day I would love to coach that Purple and Gold.’ Boom I’m here. So that’s all I can really say. God is good.”
“There was obviously a lot of support. It’s hard to select a coach when he’s employed by another team, so the timing has to be right. We have to not have a coach, and then the coach that you might want has to be available. So some of those things are out of your control. But we knew early on, and yes I’ve spoken to some of these fellas here on the front row, other Laker supporters, present, former, and from the very beginning there was always a lot of support for Byron to coach here. And having said that, as I said earlier, from the beginning, although we went through a long process where we interviewed a lot of candidates, we felt early on that Byron was the leader and the right choice from the beginning. And at that point, we had three or four people on our roster, and our feeling was, let’s create a roster, let’s get through the draft and make sure we have the right coach. Now we could’ve hired a coach a month and a half ago, but at that point now you’re maybe doing things a little bit differently. So we chose to create a roster first, and our gut instinct on Byron before we did that was that he was the right coach, and obviously we feel the same way today.”
Talk to Jerry about coaching?
“Jerry West? Or Jerry Buss? No Jerry and I never talked about me coaching the team. We talked about a little bit of everything else. Like I said, when I got let go by New Orleans, Jerry was the first to call. Asked me when I was coming home, he wanted me to come to a game, came to a couple of games and we stayed in contact. But never really talked about me coaching the team. He asked me my opinion of the team. But never talked about coaching the team.
“I never did. No.”
“Great relationship. I mean we get a long extremely well. We talk a lot. We text each other a lot during the season and obviously during the off-season. I’m looking forward to coaching Kobe. I know his drive, and I know his will and determination. I think we’re on the same page as far as how we think about this game and how it should be played. So it’s going to be fun. He has to be a little patient, we know that as well. But like I said, I think it’s going to be a lot of fun. I’m going to enjoy it.”
“They don’t do it I’ll take them out the game. It’s pretty simple, Jim. I mean, again, you get beat on the defensive end, and I’ve done this my whole career, guys, they understand that you’re not doing what you’re supposed to do out there, there’s consequences. And the only thing that you can really control with players is their minutes. That gets their attention. So if you’re not out there and you’re not playing defense the way I think you’re capable of playing or the way we should play defense, then I’m going to have to find other guys that will.”
“We can’t play that way. We don’t have a Magic Johnson. So we can’t get up and down the floor, a guy pushing the ball like he pushes right now. But my style is still the same. Like I said, first of all defense, we got to do that on a night-to-night basis. Offensively we want to get up and down the floor. We want to spread the floor. Don’t want it sticking, as much as possible. And we want to put our players in a position to be successful.”
Realistic timetable to turn team around?
“I don’t know. Again, that’s something that Mitch and Jim have been talking about We didn’t really get into all that. We talked a lot about basketball, we didn’t talk about timetables and things like that. But again, we don’t — at least I don’t see this as a long process. This is Los Angeles. This is still one of the best organizations in all of sports. Still got a ton of people that would love to play for this organization. And you’ve got guys that are sitting in the front row that are very adamant about that and they’re advocates for this organization, so I don’t think it’s going to take long.
“That’s putting a timetable on it. I don’t think long.”
Being a former Laker help with hiring?
“Is that how much of a factor was the fact that Byron played for us twice, in the hiring? Well obviously it was a factor. We talked about it, and we knew the support in the city would be there. It’s not like he’s new to this. He’s an experienced coach which is something that we stated early on we wanted to acquire. And yeah the roster was put together in the last month, but we still feel we have one of the best players in the NBA, and we’ve accumulated some talent. It’s going to take some time to work our way through it and to figure out the best way to play. But all those were factors. Certainly getting off on a good step is a factor, and we knew that would be the case bringing Byron back to Los Angeles.”
Thoughts on Julius Randle?
“I’m not going to put expectations on young fella like that. I think he has to come in here and play. He just has to come in here and play, learn the system and I think the sky’s the limit because he’s definitely very talented. To get him at seven is a steal. He was one of the top three. I love his attitude. I love the way he attacks the basket. He brings some things to the table that can definitely help us.”
Expectations for you?
“It’d be a mixture of a little bit of everything that I’ve done so far in New Jersey, New Orleans and Cleveland.”
“You’re trying to take advantage of any situation that you can on the offensive end, any mismatch that you can on the offensive end. You’re trying to put the ball in guys who can make things happen. Like I said, the Princeton offense, you have to understand how to play the game of basketball. It’s just like the triangle, a lot of similarities, so I know Kobe’s very familiar with it, but there’s different variations to the Princeton offense. There’s just not the triangle. It’s five different sets that you can call the Princeton offense, and we won’t get into all of them, and we won’t even try to work on all of them. But like I said, it’s going to be a mixture of things that I think commit to staying successful.”
“I didn’t try to stay away from it necessarily. I just was looking at all the moves that Jim [Buss] and Mitch [Kupchak] were making. When we talked, they would ask me my opinion, and I would give it to them. And like I said, I think they did a great job of putting this roster together. I’m excited to work with these guys on the floor too, and I think you’re going to have a few of these guys on this roster that have a chip on their shoulder, which to me is a very good thing, and you have a lot of people real down on us right now, and I think that’s something that can drive us going through the season. So again, I’m excited about that.”
“I learned that I needed that time off. It was good. At that time, you tend to try to get away from the game for a little while. But if you are really a basketball guy, if you really love this game, you have the passion that I have for this game, you just can’t stay away from it that long. You start watching a lot more games. You start getting that feel back, wanting to be back in that saddle again, and that’s where I found myself working with Time Warner, which I loved, but I wanted to be back in that saddle. I had that itch again about coaching and teaching. It’s something that’s in my blood. It’s something that I enjoy doing. Relationships that you build and bonds that you develop over the years with some of these players are things that are priceless, so for me, after about three or four months, I started getting the itch, and then, like I said, working with Time Warner, that didn’t help the itch. It enhanced it.”
“Well, you know, the thing I like about Jeremy, is that he’s feisty. He’s tough. He competes. I’ve played against him, as far as coached against him, in a number of games, so I know how he is. He’s a competitor. The point guard position in this league today, on the defensive end, is vital. You’ve got to have guys that are — they don’t have to be great — they don’t have to be great one-on-one defenders, but they have to go after you. They have to just continue to be persistent at that end of the floor. I think Jeremy is like that, and offensively, obviously he can shoot the ball. He can push the ball up and down the floor. He gets to the basket. He’s a very, very intelligent basketball player, so again, after coaching against him for a few years, it’s going to be fun to coach him.”
“Well, I don’t look at that as a challenge. ... I think those guys have been in the league so long that they understand they can’t play 48 minutes a game, especially to last a whole season, so those are conversations that I’ll sit down with those guys on the individual level and talk to them and tell them what I’m thinking and listen to what they’re thinking, and we’ll come up with a game plan and go from there.”
“In the offense that I run, post players are important. They’re very important because I think a lot of our guys are probably going to play one-on-one. If they get played one-on-one, they’ve got to be able to make a move down there, so it’s something that we emphasize, but they’ve also got to be a hub. They also have to be able to pass the ball, set screens. They have to know how to play the game of basketball. If we got a guy down there that can score, we’re going to throw him the ball.”
Advice from Kobe?
“Again, I just think Kobe is an unbelievable basketball player that just has an unbelievable mind for the game of basketball. And I see us conversating a lot over things that we should do on the basketball court, and I don’t see anything wrong with that. Like I said, when I came in the league and had to play with this man over here on his side, listening to him talk about the game was amazing to me, the way he saw the game, so as a coach, there’s certain things that I’m going to see on the floor, and there’s certain things that he’s going to see, and at times, I’m going to go with some of the things he sees, and I’m going to go with some of the things I see. So I don’t think that’s going to be a problem whatsoever.”
Influence from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Jamaal Wilkes?
“No, they weren’t joking. They weren’t joking. What can I tell you. We’re going to have conversations as well. They weren’t joking.
“These guys are not only my great friends, but they’re great basketball players, and obviously they have great basketball minds, so there’s probably going to be times—the same with Mitch—when I go in his office: ‘What did you see? What are you seeing?’ It’s no different with Earvin [Johnson]. It’s not different with Silk [Jamaal Wilkes]. It’s no different with Cap [Kareem Abdul-Jabbar].”
Things to learn?
“I think when you get to the point as a coach where you think you know it all, it’s time to retire. It really is. It’s time to retire. I don’t think I’m there yet. I think I have a lot to learn even though I’ve been doing this 13, 14 years. I still think every day I can get better, and why not lean on some of the guys I feel can help me get better, and that’s these guys right here.”
“No, no. You got to understand though, in Cleveland and Jersey and New Orleans, I had more rings than anybody in the organization. These guys, they’ve got way more rings than I do, so it’s easy to listen to them. It’s kind of hard when the guys in the organization haven’t been to a Finals, haven’t won anything, for them to tell you how to get there when I’ve been there. These guys all here have been there multiple times and won multiple championships, so as I tell players today, I don’t have players do anything that we didn’t do back in the day on the basketball floor. And that stays the same.”
Rest of coaching staff?
“Again, that’s something that Mitch and I’ll sit down and talk about.”
Rivalry with Clippers?
“I don’t think L.A. has gone to the Clippers yet anyway. It’s still a Laker town, period. But does it make for a great rivalry? Yes. And love that about it, that we have two teams now, one that has about 17 banners and one that doesn’t have any yet, but the rivalry is getting pretty good. But this is still a Laker town.”
What did you tell your family?
“At the time, I was in the Bahamas. When I got the word, I was vacationing. I really just told all my family members that the deal wasn’t done, but we’re close, and once the deal got done, I would let them all know. And then we would celebrate.”
“The fans have been unbelievable. Everywhere I’ve been, here in Los Angeles, fans have been very supportive. You can tell they are true-blue purple-and-gold fans. It means a great deal to me, and know it does to Mitch and Jim as well that our fans are so hyped up about this as I am. But it also means to me that I want to do everything in my power not to let them down, not only the fans, but like I said earlier, Jim and Jeanie [Buss] and Mitch have showed a lot of trust in me by allowing me to coach this team, this organization, so I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure this is successful.”
What did you say while waiting for the official word?
“My line most of the time when they were asking me, ‘When’s it going to happen?’ was ‘We’ll see.’ I just left it at that.”
“Play hard every single night, and we’ll come ready to defend.”Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun