Former Morningside High School basketball star Byron Scott grew up in Inglewood and just wanted to be a star player, but this week the former Arizona State standout proved that he is also an elite coach after earning the prestigious Red Auerbach award as NBA Coach of the Year in a landside balloting.
Scott , who coached the New Orleans Hornets to a franchise record 56 wins this regular season and No. 2 seed in the NBA Western Conference playoffs, received 70 first place votes, clearly finishing ahead of runner-up Doc Rivers of the Boston Celtics who had 23.
“All I think about is trying to get great guys and trying to make them better and trying to win basketball games, so this is very special,” Scott said.
He became the seventh African American to be honored as Coach of the Year, and the third consecutive Black following Avery Johnson of Dallas Mavericks in 2006 and Sam Mitchell of the Toronto Raptors in 2007.
Success in basketball is nothing new for Scott who is the all-time leading scorer at Arizona State with 1,752 points where he played before being drafted by the Lakers in the first round in 1983.
He helpes the Lakers win three NBA championships as a player and after 14 years in the league then moved into the coaching ranks where he got his first start in 1998 as an assistant with the Sacramento Kings.
He got his first head coaching job with the then doormat New Jersey Nets and after three and a half seasons had led the Nets from the bottom of the Eastern Conference to the NBA Finals twice, losing each time to the Lakers and then the Spurs in 2002 and 2003, respectively.
Scott was named coach of the Hornets on May 28, 2004 and has not just revitalized the franchise, which was pondering a move to Oklahoma City, but also the city of New Orleans which had been devastated by Hurricane Katrina.
With Scott at the helm, the Hornets eliminated the Mavericks in the first round of the playoffs and later this week will open a best of seven game series against the defending NBA champion San Antonio Spurs in New Orleans.
“I’ve got an unbelievable group of guys that I enjoy being around every day. They are a special group. I love them dearly. There’s not a coach in this business that has a better job than I do,” he said.
This is Scott’s eighth season as head coach in a league of predominantly Black players of which he is one of 10 coaches of color.