by Alejandro de los Rios
It really only makes sense: after three consecutive losing seasons including a debut with only 18 wins Byron Scott led the Hornets to a franchise-best 56 wins and a division title. Now, Scott has been honored with the Association's Coach of the Year award.
David West and Chris "Birdman" Andersen are the only two players that remain from Scott's first year. On several occasions, I've asked West how or if Scott has changed since that miserable first season.
"Not at all," West would say. "As far as the system goes, he's always been the same. It's been about getting the players to execute. He always wants us to play hard first and well second."
Not to get too mystical about it, but Byron Scott is likely the only coach that could have pulled this team from the dredges of the Western Conference to Southwest Division Champions given the outstanding circumstances. With so much of this team's relationship with this city in question from the post-Katrina move to Oklahoma City to the attendance woes during this season Scott has been a rock of consistency, his message unwavering: work hard, play defense, have fun.
Always a players coach, Scott has always, in my opinion, also been one of the more approachable coaches in the league. After the NFL, there is probably no higher pressure job than NBA head coach. Think about this: there have been 9 coaching changes since the beginning of last season. Under that kind of stress, it's common to get a prickly personality. Scott has shown none of that, seemingly always finding a reason to smile, even during or after a loss.
He's always willing to field any question, even if it's at Peja's CharitaBowl in between being offered drinks by everyone in sight. That was the first time I got a chance to talk to Scott about the team and when I first realized that he was the embodiment of his players: approachable, affable and engaging. Talking to him, it became clear why this teams has been so fun to watch and cover.
After this season, there really shouldn't have been any speculation as to who deserved the Coach of the Year award. Sure, Doc Rivers (who got 23 votes to Scott's 70) led the Celtics to the biggest turnaround in NBA history, but he did it with the help thanks to the acquirement of All-Stars Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett. And Rick Adelman (17 votes) was only really in the running because of Houston's 22-game win streak (which, incidentally, nobody's talking about right now).
There's really nothing more to say than this: Congratulations.
Oh, and there's a game tonight of some importance. Tip-off is at 6 p.m. Seems as though the Hornets can clinch the series and move on to the Western Conference Semifinals. Who knew?