The Complexity of Deciding Byron Scott’s Fate

Byron Scott Cavs KnicksLet 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)

  • Harv 21

    Craig, is your point that this is complex decision is one that fans should not weigh in on because we don’t have sufficient access to the facts?

    I’ve read most of your posts the last 5 years and I’m concluding you do not, NOT, enjoy extended conjecture about the fate of a coach or manager. But who’s coaching is just another part of the sports entertainment package that Gilbert sells us and we will enjoy talking about. There will be uninformed, panicky, enraged and/or simply dumb blowhard comments about Byron, just like there are blowhards throwing advanced stats around and claiming they explain everything about a sport. It’s all good. Byron can take it, he’s been a star athlete and he’s had teams tune him out as a coach. He’s been fired before and will be fired here, at some point. He’s a big boy; you don’t need to play tiger mom. We’re gonna discuss his fate, and we’ll only stop if he’s around long enough to start winning. It’s all part of sports fandom, brother.

  • I agree it is a worthy topic, but I just would like people to have some kind of grip on the reality of how these things happen from point A to point Z.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    For some reason I can’t find myself so readily willing to wheel the axe on Lord Byron. Perhaps it’s the fact he was hired a year to late or that he was completely Pearl Harbored by LBJ’s decision to leave or the fact that his best two players (Irving and Varejao) cannot play full seasons. Not only that but this years number one pick also got injured. This is completely the opposite of how I’ve felt about the head coaches for the Browns. Almost every single one of them should have been fed to the lions.

    All that aside I can see how people are upset. I’m certainly not a patient spectator I want to win immediately at all costs and quite frankly cannot stand the “rebuilding” word. It’s not rebuilding if you never win anything. It’s just change or worse bad hiring.

    So I’m going to treat Byron Scott much in the way I treated the Colt McCoy and then Brandon Weeden situations. After Chris Grant hopefully does more then draft another young and immature player in the top five followed by another in the middle of round one (something like using some, not all, some of that piggy bank savings on a better free agent then CJ Miles) then Scott’s head coaching clock should probably start a ticking. Until then Scott will always justifiably be able to have an out.

    One last quickie that just came to me. Wouldn’t it be ironic if Scott gets fired next year only to have LBJ return? That would be twice for Scott in missing out on having the best player in the NBA on his team. That’s just cruel.

  • Harv 21

    Not sure your grip is true. Didn’t see in your list of factors deciding a coach’s fate the reaction of us fans to him. The fans may decide the team is not playing hard (a perception more poisonous in this town, I would argue, than in many others). They may decide the Cavs are not sufficiently improving, either individual players or the team as a whole, in any significant way even given limited talent and injuries. If fans decide Byron should be able to change that but cannot, fans will not be happy with the entire franchise if it this continues a fourth consecutive year. The customers in the entertainment biz are a big part of the story, and Byron’s fate. Gilbert’s a businessman, he gets that.

  • I find myself comparing Scott’s situation with McCoy.

    Many Colt-backers point to how unfair it is that Brandon Weeden get’s Richardson and Gordon, while Colt was surrounded by nothing. And that probably is unfair to Colt. But if you saw enough of Colt to know/think/judge that he’s not a starting NFL QB, why do we need to see him with more weapons? Sure, his numbers would be better, but in the end you’re still not satisfied with your QB.

    Like Colt, Scott has been surrounded by scrubs. He’s taken a lot of losses for the org due to lack of talent. But he also holds some dubious franchise records and his in-game management and attention to detail leaves much to be desired (not to mention non-competitive no-show games). Sure, it would be “unfair” to fire him before the whole org was behind a team that was Trying To Win. But if you’ve seen enough to know/think/judge he’s not that great of a coach (and ESPECIALLY if he’s lost the locker room)…

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Unlike McCoy I don’t see Scott losing his job but I get where you are coming from too. It’ll be interesting to see what happens but I maintain this offseason is crucial but then again I’ve been saying that for the last three years now.

  • mgbode

    Good points, we only see the ancillary part of the equation in the games. We don’t see the practice, the training, how players act around him on the plane, etc.

    I’m good either way, but I have a feeling it’s time to move on. He was given an impossible task, but so many times a new voice injects more life into a rising team. Mike Brown(Cavs), Scotty Brooks(OKC), and Thibideou(Chicago) were not the first coaches of those teams that were on the rise.

  • The_Matt_Of_Akron

    Agree Harv. Also, to continue with the “fans = customers” line of thinking is how well the other teams in town are doing. Coach Scott may even end up being sacrificed to drum up excitement for a new coach as a way to get people back in The Q, if the Tribe and Browns aren’t complete trainwrecks and start drawing away serious entertainment dollars.

    That scenario has him losing his job based on the performance of teams not even in the same sport as he.

  • This team was NEVER a playoff caliber team, unless the season ended after the first game of the season. In all their moves of trading off young proven assets, they have nothing to show for in return. Irving isn’t the type of player that can elevate a franchise, with or without him, they are 20-25 win team. Doesn’t mean he isn’t an incredible talent, a start in the making, he just isn’t a franchise changing player.

    As bad as most would think the Larry Hughes signing was, no one said the Cavs had to overpay, the Cavs if I’m not mistaken had more money to spend in free agency that year than anyone. They re-signed Ilgauskas, then Jones, Marshall, and Hughes was the BEST the Cavs could do. No one had an interest in coming to Cleveland to play with James (who wasn’t the same player here as he is NOW in Miami) Hughes and LeBron weren’t a good fit. Hughes was brought in to be the PG to get LeBron off the ball for which he had a propensity to dominate. That’s been the case with every PG here during the Lebron era, or their first past always seems to go in his direction

    If James was the player he claimed he is, then he would have made the adjustment. Losing Hughes in the Finals hurt, but having LeBron being the worse player on the floor, didn’t help matters. I believe there were 2 games (games 3 and 4) the Cavs lost by a total of 4 points, LeBron shot 19-53 FG Let me get BACK on topic. This is not a prime destination for top tier FA’s, you have to think its worse now, than it was when the Cavs were among the NBA’s elite. With that being understood by the organization, whether the accepted it or not, Primarily you have to develop, identify, and retain your own talent.

    JJ Hickson was by far the Cavs best low post scorer, he’s in Portland shooting .567 FG%, Sessions was the Cavs best decision maker with the ball, could score the ball, his numbers in Los Angeles are almost identical to what Nash is doing, and he has Dwight Howard, but he’ll earn over $27 million over the next 3 years. in Charlotte Sessions is a 14.4 PPG scorer, but in 2 games vs the Cavs 17 31 MPG 17.0 PPG .429 FG% 4.0 REB 4.5 AST. Simply put, are they Cavs a better team with or without them? Sure the Cavs picked up Walton (has a ring career numbers not even better than Samuels), Kapono (cut some say he never got a chance in his first stint here), Casspi (he’s regressed in year 2 under Scott) and draft picks they may or may not even see. Maybe Grant should be re-evaluated as well. # years, 3 top 4 picks, and yet to win 35 games in a season. Heat have more wins this year than Cavs post LeBron. Heats win streak longer than Cav single season total.

    Scott has been fired from both his 2 previous NBA stops, so at some point, he just wasn’t getting it done there, and he had far more to work with. I thought firing Brown was the wrong move, but it was a desperate move to get the attention of LeBron who had no intention of returning. Over the course of LeBron tine here, the organization appeared to have put him over the team, and have been paying the price.

    I won’t put it all on Scott, but with 3 years on the job and no improvement, doesn’t make it a complex decision at all unless you’re a fence straddler by nature.

  • No comparison at all, McCoy just wasn’t and isn’t very good, He’s a game manager at BEST. Regardless to what he had or didn’t have, he never showed improvement. Even his numbers that most view as decent are distorted, You look at McCoys numbers through 3 quarters, and then take his 4th quarter numbers, with game situation and circumstances in consideration, and you’ll see who and what he is as a QB. In 2011 he averaged a little over 8 PPG through 3 quarters ( many thanks to Dawson) and trailed by almost 11 PPG entering the 4th quarter. His abysmal performance at home vs Seattle, was all I needed to see. In a game the defense DOMINATED, they had to hold on to win, and actually a missed call on a punt return,is what kept the Browns from losing.

    The Browns players weren’t scrubs, his obvious limitations at QB appeared to make it seem that way. The 5 yard back shoulder throw into traffic, leading guys into contact had grown old.

    In regards to Scott, these are players he wanted, he didn’t want Hickson, viewed Sessions as expendable, and Green not good enough to make the team (Popovich must have an eye for talent, or just got lucky) Scott has been awful from day one, he tried to force an offense that didn’t fit the strengths of his personnel. His game management, lineups, substitution patterns, in game adjustments, were just terrible. How many times can you say guys just didn’t come out with any energy? That’s coaching.

    Its not just coaching stars caliber players, unless you draft, develop, and retain them, not highly likely anyone entering their prime will be choosing Cleveland as a destination, other than a cash grab (overpaid). Coaching is more so what you do with the other players, the supporting cast. I’m not a believer in the Scott PG guru, no more so than I was with the Holmgren QB guru.

    Scott was fired before, and I’m not saying that to hold it against him, but, IMO he just hasn’t made any improvement, no reason to put faith in hope that he’ll get things turned around. Time to move on, time for change..

  • ART

    The only firing should be Chris Grant for utter incompetence. To fire the coach will only prove Grant is covering his ass. Were are the quality players for scott to win with. Was he EVER consulted about getting any players. And the last trade was pure dumb luck tht Memphis wanted to dump salary. People who have their head buried in the sand should wake up.