Let me just start off by saying that I have no idea if Byron Scott should be fired or not. I mean that too. I think compelling arguments can be made both ways from people with varying degrees of knowledge of the situation. I think it’s more important to leave that flag waving at the door because even as much as even beat writers are around the team and talking to players, they still don’t have as much perspective as Chris Grant and Dan Gilbert should have on the situation. With all that said, I think it’s important to lay out the whole situation to understand what analysis should take place.
First, let’s start with expectations. Byron Scott was never going to take this group to the playoffs in all likelihood. Sure, it might have been possible if everyone had stayed healthy and everything went just right, but let’s not pretend like that was ever an organizational goal this year. So just looking at the win-loss record isn’t a compelling argument to say Byron Scott needs to be fired or kept.
The NBA has become a league of timing and if you sign your free agents too early before your young core is ready to compete for the playoffs, it becomes a waste of resources and your team will probably peak too early and most likely short of its goals. (Larry Hughes, anyone?) This isn’t even to mention the implications in the draft lottery. I don’t think the Cavs are intentionally “tanking,” but this was always expected to be a development year for the team. Argue all you want that this is bad for the NBA and its fans. I’ll gladly listen to that argument and might even chime in, but let’s not pretend like we don’t get it.
So, once you get past the pure win-loss equation of trying to decide whether Byron Scott should continue, what else can you look at? How will the organization go about it?
Even without wins, your eyes have to tell you something. I didn’t watch the last game where everyone’s pretty well convinced the Cavaliers absolutely quit as they were blown out by the Nets. Obviously deciding whether the team quit on their coach or not is something that the organization is going to have to develop an opinion about for themselves. They’ll need to do that with exit interviews with players to figure out exactly how the team’s mentality is with Byron Scott at the helm today and going forward.
This isn’t about allowing a player to submarine a coach. This isn’t Dwight Howard saying he wanted Stan Van Gundy fired mid-season while also holding his employer hostage. This is an honest post-season review that all teams should do in order to help get a feel for where everyone is headed to make sure they’re all still going the same direction. If the team is overwhelmingly tuning Byron Scott out for valid reasons the organization needs to know it.
Then the team needs to have a similar review with Byron himself. What does he think about the team’s performance? Does he regret some of his decisions? Does he have plans to change the way he’s doing some things to better engage his team and keep them competitive all year long? Is he just hiding behind excuses like young players and injuries? Is he open to suggestions that the organization feels are appropriate after talking to the players?
With all that information and judging what the team hopes to accomplish this off-season including the draft and free agency, they can try to make the best decision for their organization going forward. It has to include questions about not only whether Byron Scott is the best coach to lead the team going forward, but also, if not Scott, then who? If Byron Scott then which players are the worst fit for him as a head coach and does the organization need those guys to compete? No sense in keeping a talented guy who won’t play for a coach you believe in, right?
That’s why I started this off by saying that I don’t know whether Byron Scott needs to be fired or not. Trends don’t mean anything because while this team has struggled defensively, it is a vastly different team than the one that played for Scott a year ago. Pure statistical analysis might help support a decision, but it doesn’t tell the story all by itself.
This is how I got myself into trouble with Browns fans over the years, by the way. I refused to just come up with an up or down opinion on whether a guy needed to be fired. It has always been my opinion that I am a generically smarter person if I’m constantly measuring the things I don’t know rather than simply the things that I do know.
The conclusion is that I think this is – and should be – a complex decision on Byron Scott. I remember thinking Doc Rivers was a horrendous coach as the Celtics won only 33 and 24 games in his second and third years with the team. I also remember thinking that Mike Brown was a bad coach as he won awards for the number of games the Cavaliers won in his years with the Cavaliers. I remember thinking the same thing about Eric Wedge. Just like a winning coach shouldn’t always be kept, a losing coach shouldn’t always be fired. Chris Grant has to figure out if Byron Scott is just in need of players like Doc Rivers was, or if his ceiling is just too short like I suspected Mike Brown’s was after losing to Orlando in the Eastern Conference Finals.
(Photo — Scott Sargent)