Byron Scott’s job the past two seasons was to put Kobe Bryant in the spotlight and help guide his career to as graceful an ending as possible. He was there to help sell NBA history and nostalgia, then after that try to develop young players and win a few games.
Lakers management — specifically executive vice president of basketball operations Jim Buss and GM Mitch Kupchak — decided Scott did not have the skillset they wanted to move the franchise into its next phase.
What is that skillset? Recruiter, according to a report by Sean Deveney in the Sporting News.
The Lakers are looking for a coach. But more than Xs and Os, more than establishing a style of play and seeking a developer of young players, the Lakers are looking for a new, “recruiter-in-chief,” as one source said…
“That appears to be the No. 1 priority,” a league source told Sporting News. “It’s not just finding a guy to work with what’s on the roster. They need a coach who can pitch players.”
That’s one reason Connecticut coach Kevin Ollie has become an especially intriguing candidate. Ollie played with 11 different NBA teams in his 13-year career, and developed a reputation for his knowledge of the game and his likeability as a teammate and mentor for younger players. Of course, Ollie’s last NBA stop was Oklahoma City, where he was a teammate to Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
If true, this fits with the narrative that the Lakers are not looking for a multi-year, patient rebuilding effort. They want to bring in talent that can win sooner rather than later to go with the young core of D'Angelo Russell, Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson, and Larry Nance.
It also begs a question: Why did the Lakers wait so long to let Scott go and start the coaching search process?
By the time they did, the two biggest name and best free agent recruiting coaches on the market — both of whom had some interest in the Lakers’ job. In Brooks case, that interest was mutual. But by the time Scott was let go Thibodeau had all the power in Minnesota and Brooks had signed to coach John Wall in Washington.
The guy at the top of the list now for the Lakers is Luke Walton. Is he a recruiter? Ettore Messina of the Spurs?
This coaching hire is important for the Lakers after a series of misfires — Mike Brown, Mike D’Antoni, Scott. The Lakers need a clear vision of what they want in a coach and what direction they want him to take the team. It’s hard from the outside right now to see where that exists.