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Lakers' new head coach Byron Scott imagines new role for Kobe Bryant on team

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A Martinez interviews Lakers' head coach Byron Scott, in his office, ahead of the 2014-2015 season.
Jacob Margolis
A Martinez interviews Lakers' head coach Byron Scott, in his office, ahead of the 2014-2015 season.

Lakers' new head coach Byron Scott recognizes that his team has hit rock bottom. What's he going to do about it? A Martinez sat down with him to find out.

The new head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, Byron Scott, grew up in Inglewood, just southwest of Los Angeles.

He went to Morningside High School, which is right in the shadow of the Fabulous Forum, the former home of the Lakers and there almost wasn't a day in his life when he didn't see the arena at least once a day. 

It was a constant reminder of his ultimate goal: playing for the Los Angeles Lakers. 

Scott went off to Arizona State and was eventually drafted by the San Diego Clippers who then made his dream come true and traded him to his hometown Lakers.

A Martinez sat down with coach Scott for an extended interview about being chosen as the coach for the team, where he wants to take the team and how he plans on handling Kobe Bryant.

Byron, you grew up in Inglewood, you’re an L.A. kid. You went to high school a couple blocks away from the Forum. What was it like growing up in L.A. at that time, that close to where the Lakers played?

What was it like seeing the Forum every day? Was it motivation, like “I want to get there someday?”
You went to Arizona State, you got drafted by the Clippers but then traded to the Lakers, hometown dream here. Describe the moment when you found out that you were going to be a Los Angeles Laker.
Magic Johnson was already there, Kareem Abdul Jabbar was already there, they had already won two championships, they had gotten the Showtime Era started already, what was the first day of practice like?
You mention all those names, Laker legends, some of them Basketball Hall of Famers. What was the feel of the organization like at the time?
Were you at least a little intimidated playing next to Magic Johnson?
You wind up playing 10 seasons with the Lakers, you win three championships. The city of Inglewood calls itself the “City of Champions” and you had a big part in that.  At that point, you’re retiring or you’re not playing basketball anymore, did you think, “What else do I have to accomplish here?” Did you achieve your dreams?
Your last season as a player was the 1996/1997 season, and I remember that year because it was a huge transition year for the Lakers organization, for the franchise. The year before, Magic Johnson had his one-year comeback, and then that year, the year that was your last year, was the first year for Shaquille O’Neal, and an 18-year-old named Kobe Bryant. What role did you play on that team with Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant? No one knew at the time what was going to come.
Taking on that role, did that spark your interest in coaching, or had you always had that?
Sometimes, players that have achieved a lot of success don’t make the best coaches because they don’t have a lot of patience.  So for you to become a coach, you’ve had a lot of success, what was it like to try and have that patience that a coach needs to have?
Around 2000 you became coach of the New Jersey Nets. You took them to back-to-back finals. You didn’t win, but still, you got them to be Eastern Conference champs. Now a few years later in 2004 Phil Jackson left the Lakers, you also didn’t have a job at that time. Why didn’t that Laker-Byron Scott relationship happen then?
So how are players different now than when you played with Magic and Kareem?
Well, you had Pat Riley, who was very, very  demanding. You also had Magic Johnson on the floor who essentially was as demanding as Pat Riley. So the dynamic was certainly a lot different, but how do you handle today’s young players, considering you background and where you’re from?
So you’re not impressed with, ‘Coach, I’m trending on Twitter! I gotta play!’
So you said maybe you weren’t ready for that Lakers coaching job back in 2004. What makes you ready now?
On April 30, Mike D’Antoni resigned as the coach. So they had a vacancy there. It seemed like it took forever to hire you – three months for them to hire you. Did you wonder, ‘What are you guys doing? Why is it taking so long?’ Because it seemed like all signs were pointing toward you.
– You were good with that, you were OK with that?
You never got nervous? Annoyed? Like, ‘When is this going to happen already?’
But the Lakers, they moved, they signed players, they drafted a couple players, wouldn’t it make more sense to hire the coach and then work with him to see what kind of roster a coach would need?
– So you kind of were coaching? [Laughs]
Last season you were an analyst for Time Warner. Watching Laker games, analyzing them, breaking them down. They had the worst season in over 50 years in Los Angeles. What happened?
Have you told your guys that you plan to play a lot of defense this year?
What are those training camps like? What’s the fear of Byron Scott?
What about the Laker brand? Because it seems to me that it just doesn’t carry as much weight as it use to, not as much weight as when you were playing…It seems like L.A. used to be able to just have their pick of whoever they wanted, and now it seems like no one’s even looking toward L.A.
You so identify with the Lakers, do you take it personally when someone says, ‘Hey, the Laker brand isn’t what it sued to be’?
Now you’ve known Kobe Bryant since he was a teenager, since he first got to the league. You were on the first team he played on with the Lakers. When it comes to Kobe Bryant, he’s been in the league a long time, a lot of miles on those wheels. How are you going to get him to relax? To just sit down once in a while?
What’s your relationship like with him?
So let me bring up a scenario here. Say there’s a game on the East Coast, went into double-overtime, and Kobe played a lot of those minutes. And then you’ve got a game the very next night. You notice that maybe he’s not moving around so good, is it going to be easy for you to tell Kobe Bryant, ‘We’re going to have to limit your minutes tonight. Maybe you take a night off?’
How’s that moment going to be like, though? Because Kobe has this intimidation thing happening for him. You’ve known him since he was a kid, but he’s a guy that’s won five titles, he’s considered one of the greatest of all time...How do you ‘stand fast,’ as you say?
Your co-tenant at Staples Center is the Clippers. They’re young, they’re fun, they’re exciting, they’re a title contender. Some people are saying that maybe they’ve chipped away at the Lakers’ popularity in Los Angeles. Are they a threat to the Lakers right now?
Is it good though for them to be as good as possible? Is it good for the city, for the sports fans, for the rivalry?
Is there anything you’d like to tell Doc Rivers? Any message you’d like to send to your Clipper head coach counterpart?
So technically, even you admit that they’re the top team in L.A.?
Laker fans aren’t very realistic though. They don’t like to hear what you just said right there.
Now a lot of experts don’t think the Lakers are going to surprise many people. They think they’re not going to make the playoffs, and that would be the first time since 1976 the Lakers would go back-to-back seasons without a playoff appearance. What could Laker fans expect out of this team this season?
You know I was just thinking about it, you and Doc Rivers, a couple of African-American coaches for an NBA team in Los Angeles. That’s never happened.
Alright, head coach Byron Scott, thank you very much for spending some time with us.
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