CLEVELAND — With LeBron or without him, Byron Scott has decided to get back on an NBA sideline.
Scott accepted Cleveland’s coaching job just as LeBron James officially became a free agent and no longer property of the Cavaliers, who are hoping that landing the best coach available will convince the two-time MVP to stay home and try to win a title.
Scott’s agent, Brian McInerney, said in an e-mail to The Associated Press that he and the Cavs are working through some final details, but doesn’t expect any problems and that Scott has agreed to become Cleveland’s next coach. The team is expected to announce Scott’s hiring later Thursday, just as James listens to offers from the New Jersey Nets and New York Knicks.
Scott, who previously coached in New Jersey and New Orleans, may not know for some time if he’ll have James on his roster. But after working as a TV analyst, the 49-year-old has decided it’s time to get back to doing what he loves most.
The Cavs have been looking for a coach since Mike Brown was fired May 24, ending a five-year run with the club. Brown guided James and his teammates through the most successful run in franchise history, but fell short of winning a championship.
Scott’s hiring ends a twisting drama to the Cavs’ coaching search.
Los Angeles Lakers assistant Brian Shaw appeared to be the favorite to become Cleveland’s coach after an impressive two-day meeting with the club earlier this week. As of Tuesday, Shaw was reported to be assembling a staff to bring to Cleveland.
But despite the Cavaliers seemingly moving toward a deal with Shaw — to the point where McInerney sent out a congratulatory e-mail to Shaw through several news outlets — general manager Chris Grant reopened talks with Scott on Wednesday.
Scott’s dream has been to coach the Lakers, but with Phil Jackson possibly returning to the champions he has decided to take on the Cavs, who could be better positioned to re-sign James with Scott on the sideline.
James has said he would like to play for a former NBA player, and Scott’s resume includes 14 pro seasons — 11 with the Lakers — and three titles. He was a teammate of Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on L.A.’s famed “Showtime” teams under coach Pat Riley and later with Kobe Bryant. He knows what it takes to win it all.
As a coach, Scott led some lesser-talented Nets teams to the finals and had a solid relationship with star Jason Kidd that unraveled toward the end of the point guard’s time in New Jersey. In New Orleans, Scott took the Hornets on a surprising run to the Western Conference finals and was close with guard Chris Paul, who is James’ best friend in the league.
The Cavs had an unsuccessful pursuit of Michigan State’s Tom Izzo, who rejected a reported $30 million to stay with the Spartans. Cleveland had several discussions with Scott, who flew himself to Michigan and met with owner Dan Gilbert on Father’s Day.
Shaw emerged as a leading candidate but then something pushed the Cavs back to Scott, landing him just in time to make an impression on James, who will hear presentations from the Nets and New York Knicks on the first day of free agency.