New Orleans’ Hornets nest: The firing of Byron Scott

byron-scottWhat makes a successful head coach? Or perhaps a better question is… what makes a once successful head coach suddenly forget how to coach?

Last week, the New Orleans Hornets announced that the services of their head coach and former NBA coach of the year, Byron Scott, would no longer be needed. The Hornets had gotten off to a less than satisfactory 3-6 start and someone had to be held accountable. It certainly couldn’t be ownership.

Scott has since been replaced by Jeff Bower, the team’s general manager. Tim Floyd, who coached the Hornets to a 41-41 record in 2003-4, has also been added back to the staff.

The Bower-Floyd combo hasn’t fared much better since taking over for Scott. In their home debut, the Hornets lost to Portland by twelve. In that game, they lost their superstar Chris Paul for 2-4 weeks with a sprained ankle. In their first Paul-less game of the season, the Hornets lost to the Atlanta Hawks by 23.

Immediately after the Scott firing, I sent a text to DJ Arthritic Semitic, a New Orleans resident and Paul aficionado. I joked that by releasing Scott, the Hornets had gotten rid of their second best player. Puzzled by the move, he chuckled, knowing that statement wasn’t all that far from the truth. Well, at least New Orleans still has the Saints.

Nuggets Hornets BasketballThe reality is that aside from Paul, the Hornets don’t have much in the way of talent, as witnessed by their two most recent drubbings. David West is a serviceable power forward and former All-Star, but he’s a product of the system. Take him off the Hornets and he’s Shawn Marion without Steve Nash. This off-season, the Hornets traded 10 points and 10 rebounds a game (Tyson Chandler) for 14 points and 10 rebounds a game (Emeka Okafor), a move that hardly strikes fear into the hearts of the Western Conference elite. And it wasn’t Byron Scott who wrote a $13 million check for Peja Stojakovic who’s averaging under nine points a game. That was ownership.

The Hornets are just not very good. We’ll continue to find out just how bad they are with Paul out of the lineup. This summer, the Lakers added Artest, the Magic landed Vince Carter, the Cavs added Shaq and the Celtics added Rasheed Wallace. The Hornets did none of the above. If ownership seriously thought this roster was title-worthy, then someone stirred a little too much brandy in the roux. (I know, I know, there’s no brandy in roux but humor me).

Chris Paul is arguably the best point guard in the league, but the last time an under six-foot point guard won an NBA title without help was never. And the last time a coach won a title with just one superstar was just as long ago.

In 2007-8, the Hornets snuck up on a lot of teams, winning 56 games and making the Western Conference Semifinals. Byron Scott won Coach of the Year. The following year, defenses started to key on Chris Paul and despite a successful regular season, the Hornets were bounced in the first round. Perhaps Scott didn’t make adjustments. Perhaps he didn’t have the talent to do so.

Scott went 105-59 in his last two seasons but this year’s rocky start led to his demise. Maybe ownership wasn’t aware four of those losses came at Boston, Los Angeles, San Antonio and Phoenix, all playoff teams and title contenders. The Hornets couldn’t have won those games with John Wooden, Phil Jackson, Bobby Knight and the ghost of Knute Rockne on their bench. Pete Maravich is not walking through that door any time soon.

Coach of The Year BasketballBut back to Scott. This is a coach who took the Nets…. THE NETS to the NBA Finals in back-to-back years. Without him, and Paul, the Hornets are dangerously close to being a team in total disarray. Chalk it up to a change of direction or difference of opinion but now Scott is unemployed like the rest of America. Allegedly, George Shinn, the Hornets’ owner, was disappointed that former Hornets Brandon Bass, JR Smith and Chris Andersen thrived on different rosters and not under Scott, yet one could argue that Scott got the best out of both David West and Tyson Chandler.

It takes more than just talent to win an NBA title. A team must also have health, luck, chemistry and coaching. There’s a reason why only eight different coaches have won NBA titles in the last 26 years. Sure, Byron Scott isn’t one of them but neither is Jerry Sloan, George Karl or Jeff Bower for that matter.

Scott will undoubtedly land on another team’s sidelines or perhaps as a television analyst in the meantime. Whichever team ultimately grabs him will end up with a sharp basketball mind and a man who now has more to prove than ever before. As owner, Shinn reserves the right to make whatever moves he think will improve his team. Time will tell whether getting rid of Scott is the right play, but with that roster, the Hornets might miss the post-season altogether. This time they’ll have no one to blame but themselves.

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31 Replies to “New Orleans’ Hornets nest: The firing of Byron Scott”

  1. Still puzzled about that move. Dude, you’re barely 3 weeks into the basketball season and you’re firing a coach of Byron Scott’s caliber and proven record? Bonehead move. Hornets will suffer greatly for the next couple of years and Paul is gonna want out! What’s his contract situation anyway?

  2. Donny C… Nice to see you no longer gloating about your Dolphins eking out a victory over the lowly Bucs.

    Last year, CP3 signed a league-max contract extension to stay with New Orleans for another 3-4 years.

  3. What a dumb move by the Hornets but something I would expect from George Shinn. He was clueless in Charlotte and he turned one of the BEST fan bases in the NBA against him and his team. He is the East of the Mississippi version of Donald Sterling and if it wasn’t for Dolan up in New York, he might get the nod as worst owner in the league.

  4. Correct, Frank.

    Another unpopular move by Shinn.

    My bet is this team misses the playoffs.

    And what’s up with Floyd? How does this guy still keep landing jobs? The guy was PAYING his college players. Have we forgotten this already?

  5. I have nothing but deep hatred for Shinn. He is a clueless greedy jackass that ruined what by now would have been one of the leading franchises in the NBA. I am happy that Scott escaped that hell hole of a organization and I wish the same for CP3. The city of New Orleans deserves better than George Shinn.

  6. Clarence… I don’t think you speak alone when it comes to Hornets’ fans resentment for Shinn.

    I love that picture of I found of him smiling gleefully as Scott accepts Coach of the Year award.

    What a difference 15 months makes, huh?

  7. Chris Humpherys

    Jeff Bower ? Like I said in my own piece this has the makings of being a tumultuous season for the Hornets. If things get from bad to worse – don’t be surprised if Chris Paul (CPIII) demands a trade from the team. I mean who’s he been surrounded with ? This team even Stojakovic and Okafor aren’t going to go far. The roster just isn’t good or deep enough for that matter !

    This was a big mistake by Bower in firing Byron Scott and it’s going to come back and haunt the organization , to be sure !

    Alan Parkins

  8. Guys, unfortunately we live in an era of what have you done for me lately, your body of work doesn’t matter anymore because you will always be compared to the teams that are much better your’s but you expect your Coach to work miracles. I listened to a New Orleans sports radio station, most of the callers love that B Scott got fired, in fact, they thought he schould have been fired long before now.

  9. But E… who are they gonna land? Floyd or their GM is hardly a step up.

    Now if they go out and land an Avery Johnson, I think it’d be an improvement.

    Speaking of coaches turned television analysts, I hear Gruden just signed a multi-year deal. Guess that means he’s out of Notre Dame consideration.

    The biggest names to emerge, assuming Weis gets fired, are Stoops and Ferentz. And we both know, Urban Meyer’s name will always be mentioned.

  10. As much as I don’t like Byron Scott, being an ex-Laker and all, this firing is nothing but good for him.
    First of all, he doesn’t have to work for George Shinn,the next to the worst NBA owner. Donald Sterling is THE worst. Second, he’s rumored to be replacing Phil Jackson when the guru retires. Of course by that time,the Lakers will stink. But whatever happens, he’ll land on his feet just like Doc Rivers did.

  11. Actually, I have heard that that idiot owner was just trying to cut pay roll and has already bagged the season. Don’t think we have to worry about B Scott, the LA job comes open next season, wonder who’s going to get that job? You guested it, B Scott. There will continue to be a hand full of good teams and coaches and that my friend will never change. Having said that, for the next three to four years, either the Lakers, Nuggets, Spurs, Celtics or possibly the Orlando Magic will contend for the title. I may have left out one or two but I don’t think so.

  12. Chris Humpherys

    Like I said Jeff Bower ? Who the hell is this guy ?

    He couldn’t spot talent , much less spell the word. Were you to give him an assist with the letters T _ L _N and T. Need one say anymore on the subject ? The owner George Shinn has always been known to be a cheap bas_ard from the get-go anyway.

    Alan Parkins

  13. Snake… I had also heard about Scott landing on the Clips.

    Not sure that would be the best career move, going from one crap owner to another.

    I guess with Rambis accepting the Minnesota job, the Lakers would be a nice fit. I’d take that job… he he. Would you still talk to me?

  14. With that Lakers coaching job comes HIGH expectations, E. They even ran Rudy T out of town.

    Let me ask you this. If Scott gets that Lakers job, does he get one of those nice fake leather mall jackets?

  15. But Al… Floyd comes with so much baggage. He might as well have hired Kelvin Sampson.

    And speaking of our boy, Kelvin, I see Calipari’s Kentucky team almost lost last night if it weren’t for John Wall.

  16. Be right over to check out your latest, Al.

    Speaking of the Lakers, did you happen to catch Ty Lawson’s dunk over DJ Mbenga.

    I’ll have a tribute to that one soon.

  17. Lakers fans are a little like Notre Dame fans, Al. They think that winning is their birthright.

    The Nuggets and the Spurs are going to give L.A. all they want this season.

  18. As long as Calipari’s not giving legal recruiting advice, I think we’ll be okay.

    I think it Chris Myers’ partner on Fox today who recommended that Buffalo just go ahead and make T.O. head coach. Their offense would be a little predictable but at least “I love me some me” would be happy.

  19. As a lifetime Laker fan growing up during the Showtime Era, I love Byron Scott–both as a player and as a coach. This firing, to me, is absolutely ludicrous, but could work out very nicely for the Lakers! I would love to see Byron return to coach the Lakers. I’ve never like Phil Jackson…though I can’t argue with the results he has gotten. But I think Scott may be the best coach in the league. Remember, he coached the NETS to consecutive Finals appearances!

  20. I couldn’t agree more, Josh. I’ve always respected what Scott could do in his relatively short time as an NBA coach. I think New Orleans will regret the fire.

    The transition from Jackson to Scott makes sense for a Lakers organization who would be welcoming home one of their favorite sons.

    I wonder if negotiations have already begun.

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