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Once Again, Scott Is a Hot Prospect

Pro basketball: Former Laker and current King assistant is a rising star who expects to become a head coach very soon.

April 26, 2000|THOMAS BONK | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Because it is now clear that the place to find your next NBA head coach is in the locker room soon after he has peeled off his uniform for the last time, the trick is to pick the right retired player.

In other words, you're trying to come up with the next Doc Rivers or Scott Skiles . . . and not the next Quinn Buckner or Randy Wittman.

This brings us to Byron Scott, the man in the gray assistant coach's suit, sitting right there on the sideline during the playoffs with the Lakers as an employee of Coach Rick Adelman and the Sacramento Kings.

How long he stays there, well, chances are it's going to be as long as his hair, which you would say is not long at all because Scott shaves his head bald.

There is no question Scott is ready to become an NBA head coach, basically because he says so.

"I'm ready," Scott said. "I didn't take this job to be an assistant my whole career."

Scott has been mentioned as the successor to Larry Bird in Indiana, where Scott played two years under Larry Brown in 1993-94 and 1994-95. The short list at Indiana supposedly includes Bird assistant Rick Carlisle, Isiah Thomas and Scott.

Scott said he has heard his name mentioned in connection with at least three other potential jobs, so he knows his time is coming.

"It's going to be one of those situations you look forward to, and it's a little scary at first. But it looks like I'm on a fast curve and it's coming quicker than I expected."

Scott, 39, is in only his second year as an assistant coach. If he were any greener, he would need mowing, but the NBA is nothing if not trend-setting, so the idea that former players make the best coaches has managed to sweep Scott along in the process.

Scott's duties with the Kings include advance scouting, reviewing offensive game plans and skill work with the backcourt, where he must try to keep Jason Williams entirely inside the gym and prevent him from spinning into orbit.

This may be tough duty for the man who was the Lakers' shooting guard during "Showtime," but who is to say that Scott won't cut it?

Former Laker coach Del Harris said Scott looks like a winner, at least in the fashion of the player-becomes-coach trend.

"I told Byron when he was playing for me that I thought he had the kind of approach that it took to become a coach in the league," Harris said. "He told me at the time that he hoped to do that.

"I've coached a lot of guys that are working in the league as coaches, such as Rudy [Tomjanovich], [Mike] Dunleavy and Skiles, and I think Byron had the coaching 'stuff' about him. I think I know what it takes to make it in the league. And I think Byron would have a lot going for him."

What Scott feels he has going for him is a blend of Pat Riley and Brown as well as a lot of his own ideas. From Riley, one of his former Laker coaches, Scott said he learned the work ethic of a coach and something of an on-the-floor personality in terms of intensity and demeanor. Brown is more vocal, more intense than Riley, said Scott, a coach who "really gets into the guys."

But Scott insists he is his own man as a coach.

"I have my own way of doing things," he said. "I'm not a screamer, I'm intense and I'm a perfectionist. I'd give the players a lot of leeway in areas such as coming up with a game plan, because they're the ones who are out there trying to do it."

As the jump-shooting off-guard who played next to Magic Johnson beginning in 1983, Scott averaged 14.1 points in a 14-year career that included three NBA titles in 11 seasons with the Lakers.

Scott played in 183 playoff games in his career, the fifth-highest total in NBA history, behind only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Danny Ainge, Johnson and Robert Parish.

By the time he played for Brown with the Pacers in 1993, Scott knew he wanted to become a head coach. From his view as a former player, Scott says the gap between players and coaches must be respected, but cannot be overblown.

"You have to separate yourself from the players, I know that," Scott said. "You have to change. But I'm not that far removed from the league. Some guys say, 'Hey, I saw you on TV on ESPN Classic.' Maybe they can relate to me a little bit more. But you do have to distance yourself."

So Scott stays busy with the Kings until he gets the call he expects. His chief assignment in the Laker series is to help Williams, the mercurial, tattooed, shaved-head sprite, who is routinely spectacular on both sides of the ledger.

It's a heavy load, Scott said.

"I'm trying to get the kid to understand what the game's all about," Scott said. "His maturity level is something he has to work on."

Meanwhile, Scott's maturity level appears quite high as he sits on the sideline, toting the ritual clipboard and looking serious in his assistant coach's suit. Someday soon, chances are that Scott will move to the head of the bench and it will be someone else's job to carry the clipboard.

When that time comes, Scott doesn't sound as if he is going to back down.

"I've never said to myself, 'I think I'll be a good NBA coach.' No, I've always said to myself, 'I think I'll be a great NBA coach.' There is no sense of failure."

In that case, he sounds like a head coach already.

LAKERS vs. KINGS

L.A. leads best-of-five series, 1-0

*

GAME 2

Thursday at Staples Center, 7:30 p.m.,

Fox Sports Net

*

ELSEWHERE

San Antonio 85

Phoenix 70

Miami 84

Detroit 82

Coverage, Page 5

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