The text message from Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak arrived on a lazy Sunday afternoon, as Byron Scott was relaxing and baby sitting his granddaughters.
It was a request for Scott to meet with Kupchak at the team’s practice facility. Scott assured Kupchak that he’d be there around 7 that night after his grandfather duties were over, and the idea that his job as coach of the Lakers could be in jeopardy was only an afterthought.
Sure, Scott said, his mind began to race a bit as he drove to the meeting on April 24. But it wasn’t until Kupchak told Scott that the Lakers weren’t going to retain him that he knew his tenure as coach of the team he loves was over after two seasons.
“I didn’t really think nothing of the meeting,” Scott recalled on Tuesday. “Obviously when I was driving over there, I started thinking, ‘Meeting on a Sunday at 7 o’clock. What’s going on?’ But in my mind, getting fired was the last thing on my mind. But it was like, ‘Naw. From our conversations, I’m sure I’m going to get another year.’
Scott said there had been one informal meeting for about 1 1/2 hours with Kupchak the previous week to discuss players on the roster, free agents and the NBA draft.
He took that as an indication he was going to get at least one more season as coach.
“I was very disappointed,” Scott said. “My thought process was we have to turn it around next season. The young guys have got to get better. We’ve got to get some free agents in here. That was my mind-set.”
Scott said he drove home “stunned” from the news. He didn’t sleep well that night. But the next day, Scott told himself, “Move on, B, and think about your next chapter.”
His two seasons coaching the Lakers had been the worst in franchise history. The Lakers were 17-65 this season, after going 21-61 last season.
But Scott said before getting hired in July 2014 that he, Kupchak and Lakers Executive Vice President Jim Buss were in agreement that the coming few years were going to be difficult.
So to hear that the franchise was going in a different direction was hard to take.
“I was like, ‘Wow,’ when considering the conversations that we had before I even signed to become the coach,” Scott said. “We met three or four times for interviews. When we sat down, we all said, ‘It’s going to be rough these two or three years. Are you OK with that?’ I said . . . ‘I’m a pretty strong guy. If you guys are OK, then we’re all on the same page.’”
He heard that he was too tough on rookie D’Angelo Russell and second-year players Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson.
“D-Russell and I, at least in my mind, I felt we had a pretty good relationship,” Scott said. “My relationship with Jordan and Julius, at least in my mind, was really good. I don’t think I was too hard on D-Russ. I wanted him to be accountable and to make him better. So if that’s old school . . . I call it coaching. So I do not think I was too hard on him.”
Scott said he naturally wonders what he could have done differently. Maybe he could have given more playing time to veterans Lou Williams and Brandon Bass. But Scott said he didn’t want to stunt the growth of his young players.
“You go back and if you knew that that was the situation that was going to occur, I probably would have played my older guys a lot more,” Scott said. “They have the experience and the know-how. But in the long run, I knew playing those young guys was going to be invaluable for them in the future.”
Scott, 55, has had a long career in the NBA. He played 11 seasons for the Lakers as a shooting guard and won three championships. After retiring, he became an assistant coach with Sacramento and then was a head coach for 15 seasons with four NBA teams.
Scott’s immediate plans are to write a book about the similarities in sports and business, and he will do some TV work in the playoffs.
And, yes, he does want to coach again.
He’s starting to recover from the shock of getting fired, helped along by a text from Kobe Bryant and Larry Nance Jr. expressing how they wished it had turned out better.
Scott also said he wants to see newly hired Lakers Coach Luke Walton succeed.
“I coached Luke in Cleveland,” Scott said. “I have a lot of respect for Luke, a lot of love for him. So I wish him nothing but the best, and the organization as well.
“I hold no ill feelings toward anybody there. I still love that organization and that purple and gold. That’s what I bleed.”
Follow Broderick Turner on Twitter @BA_Turner