News Wrap: Reaction to the coaching change

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Published: November 13, 2009

Byron Scott, coaching his last game in New Orleans last weekThe biggest news this morning is that Chris Paul was caught off guard by the decision to fire Byron Scott. Apparently the first he heard of it was at practice yesterday morning. Paul’s words in the Times-Picayune:

“I felt like, maybe somebody would have at least consulted with me and asked how I felt before it happened,” Paul said by telephone Thursday night. “It’s not to get my approval, but we feel we should know about the decision before it takes place.” 

The Hornets have struggled this season, getting off to a 3-6 start. Weber said the organization didn’t see enough improvement, which necessitated the move.

“You can’t put all this on Coach,” Paul said…

“I think we all need to have an open mind, the system could change, but we still have to play the game,” Paul said. “Regardless of what is going on, the game is still basketball. I’m going to play as hard as I can every night.

“I know D-West is going to do the same. I know the team is going to do the same.”

John Reid, Times-Picayune:

“Anybody who knows me knows that Coach is my guy,” Paul said. “It’s not just because of basketball stuff. I understand that it’s a business and all that stuff, but I’m honestly not the player I am today without Coach. I don’t have the Olympic gold medal and All-Star Games without Coach.

“When I woke up this morning, I had no idea that this was even possible.”

Scott could not be reached for comment Thursday, but Weber said when told that the team was heading in another direction, Scott indicated that he understood and took it well. Scott’s business manager, Brian McInerney, said his client participated in a charity golf tournament in New Orleans on Thursday afternoon.

Telling quotes from David West in the Times-Picayune:

West on Thursday said the players are in for a “dramatic change, a dramatic difference” now that General Manager Jeff Bower, along with new lead assistant coach Tim Floyd, have taken over for fired Byron Scott.

“We’re not going to be as predictable as we have been in the past. I know that, having played for Tim before,” said West, a sixth-year veteran. “That’s something I’m looking forward to, in terms of style of play.”…

West said that the team’s philosophy wasn’t working, and Scott’s pride might have been a factor.

“We’ve had some conversations over the past couple of weeks, just trying to figure out what we could do to get the ship righted, but … pride is a crazy thing,” he said. “I think pride is a dangerous, dangerous thing. I think there was a sense a few guys weren’t trusting what we had in terms of our system and our ability to know what we were going to get every single night from our system.”

West said the players should be receptive to Bower and Floyd because “what we had wasn’t working.”

More from West via John DeShazier in the T-P:

“We’ve always had the relationship where we could just speak to one another. I was doing that but, like I said, the things that we were doing weren’t working, and I don’t think it was in terms of needing another personnel change. I just think our approach needed to be different. We needed to try some new things.

“I just think that we were way too predictable. We worked way too hard to get simple stuff accomplished. In this league, as long as this season is, you can’t do that. All I can say is philosophically, there wasn’t a shift or a change that we as players, on a night-in and night-out basis, would feel comfortable with.”

Jeff BowerNBA.com:

Bower said it was more than simply the poor start to this season that prompted the quick trigger on Scott’s job.

“Nine games into the season is one thing,” Bower said. “Numerous practices that we watched and the effectiveness of our team growing from them are all areas of the team that we feel need to be different.

“Given that plus our preseason play, we’re looking to something to point to to say that it’s changing. The only thing you can do is look at the tapes of the games and search to see what progress is being made. We weren’t comfortable with the amount of progress we were seeing.”

Tony Mejia of PBN with words from Hornets president Hugh Weber:

“I told Jeff the genie is out of the bottle. Nobody can say he didn’t have the right players or the right reason. Jeff has hand-selected this team and we like the idea that now, Jeff will be held accountable for the results,” Weber said in candid, strongly-worded comments to reporters in New Orleans on Thursday. “Some of what is being defined was a big problem and yet there was no specific direction on how to fix it. We believe that there are actually very fixable, very tactical, very specific goals that we have that were not being achieved.”

Ken Berger, CBSSports.com:

Falling under the definition of “this would be hilarious if it wasn’t so sad,” the Hornets once again showed that the NBA is no place for a ramshackle, mom ‘n pop operation. 

That is, if the Hornets still qualify as an operation.

Despite their financial woes, someone at the Bees’ Podunk practice facility had enough money to purchase two knives: One for team president Hugh Weber to stick into Scott’s back on the way out, and another to plunge into that of GM-turned-coach Jeff Bower on the way in…

This is what the Hornets have become — a pathetic, homespun, bacterial stew of nepotism and finger-pointing. Shinn’s commitment to post-Katrina New Orleans would be admirable if he’d shown the same commitment to Charlotte a few years back. Once again, the Hornets do things on the fly and on the cheap, playing in a champagne league on a moonshine budget.

Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com:

The Hornets’ assistant coaching staff will remain the same, other than the addition of former Hornets head coach Tim Floyd, who will serve as Bower’s top assistant. Floyd was New Orleans’ head coach during the 2003-04 season, when the Hornets finished 41-41 and took the Heat to a Game 7 in the first round of the playoffs (Dwyane Wade’s rookie year).

There was an initial misconception among some NOLA media members that Bower was taking over the coaching position on an interim basis, but team president Hugh Weber clarified that Bower does not have an interim tag. He is the permanent head coach. Bower will retain his duties as GM, the position he’s held since the 2005-06 season.

Art Garcia, NBA.com:

The front office squarely placed the blame on Scott for the Hornets’ 3-6 start. New Orleans also suffered a first-round playoff ouster last season after nearly reaching the Western Conference finals the season before.

“The general feeling was — and Chris Paul has said this — that this team did not have an identity, did not have a style, did not have a process for winning,” Weber said. “Coach felt the issue was trust and effort, that if we just trusted each other, we’d get better, but the issue was execution.”…

Weber chose Bower over other internal candidates, including longtime assistant Paul Pressey. Bower, essentially, volunteered for the job.

“We had ongoing discussions about all of the potential fixes about the brokenness of the team,” Weber said. “Jeff volunteered the thought, ‘I can do this.’ I said, ‘Are you sure that’s what you want to do? Because once you do, the genie can’t go back in the bottle.'”

In other words, if Bower doesn’t produce, the unemployment line is likely his next top. “This is a true put your money where your mouth is situation,” Weber said.

Bradley Handwerger, WWL-TV.com:

When the Hornets officially released Byron Scott from head coaching duties, it was the end of a road that, according to one of the players, began as far back as the 2007-08 season.

Yes, the same season the Hornets won their first-ever Southwest Division title and came within one game of the Western Conference finals.

“Actually, even that year, we ran into some things that we felt like at times we just weren’t playing the game the right way,” All-Star forward David West said. “When we faced teams that were strong in their system and really had a system they felt comfortable with, we struggled.”

At The Hive (great run down of Floyd’s coaching career in that post, too):

In name, it’s Bower that has been named the official head coach. Honestly? I think this is a face-saving move for the Hornets. They don’t want to name Floyd- whose reputation has been disgraced- the outright head coach for obvious reasons. But it’s clear here who the more experienced of the two is. Heck, Bower served as Floyd’s assistant coach during the 2003-2004 season. Bower will be the guy roaming up and down the sidelines (or sitting, I guess). But Floyd should be the guy doing everything else.

John Hollinger at ESPN’s TrueHoop:

Virtually everyone believes Bower was put in charge because the cost-trimming Hornets didn’t want to pay another coach after cashiering Scott. To help him out they hired a former Hornets coach, Tim Floyd, who didn’t exactly earn rave reviews during his first stint in the Big Easy. In fact, he was only available because he resigned at USC over allegations of payments to then-recruit and current Memphis Grizzly O.J. Mayo. Or maybe that’s part of ownership’s new financial strategy: Have Floyd pay the players so they don’t have to.

Making this arrangement particularly unwieldy is that Bower has virtually no support system — the Hornets have the league’s smallest front office. In fact calling it an “office” is probably too generous; it’s more like a spare closet in the basement. Presumably personnel director Brian Hagen will take on a bit more responsibility on some of the personnel nitty-gritty while Bower focuses on his other full-time job. Director of Basketball Administration Andrew Loomis, who has basically been a cap specialist, may also take on some new responsibility.

According to the Hornets’ media guide, that’s it – with Bower coaching, those two men are now the entire full-time braintrust. And a pair of college scouts – yes, just two, again based on their media guide – comb the landscape for talent. Based on that information, it’s hardly any wonder that they’ve blown so many important personnel decisions in recent years.

A couple of Tweets from Chris Paul’s brother C.J. yesterday:

Today has not been a good day. The Team let go of Coach Scott which I think was a very good coach.He’s the only NBA coach my bro has known.

I can’t stand when ppl that don’t know Basketball, make major basketball decisions. It turns out to be a disaster.

Pierce Huff, Times-Picayune:

Bower, who’s also the team’s general manager, hasn’t been a head coach on any level. He said there was a comfort level with Floyd, so he decided to give his old friend a call and asked if he was interested in helping him turn around the Hornets.

“I think what we considered was his ability as a teacher and as a coach, and his familiarity with our philosophies in teaching plans,” Bower said.

Another thing that aided Bower’s decision making was his relationship with Floyd.

“We’re close professionally and personally,” Bower said.

Juan Kincaid, WWL-TV.com:

I think this move is a sign that the Hornets have called it a season. They’ll mail it in and take their lumps and then try to improve. I said before if you’re going to fire the head coach, you have to fire the GM, because he’s the one who assembled the parts. Jeff Bower is not a head coach. Tim Floyd is probably a pretty decent assistant, but he’s not a head coach. What this franchise will have to do – even with George Shinn $3 million over the cap, is have him dip into his pockets and get a coach this team can believe in and rally around.

John McMullen, Sports Network:

Simply put, Scott had clearly lost his team with the roots of his downfall growing late last season.

Certainly the talent assembled by Bower should be better than 3-6 but that kind of start can be overcome. However, if you look back to last season, Scott’s Hornets won only three of their last 14 games and were often blown out during that stretch, being outscored by nearly 170 points, about 12 points per game. As a comparison, the Sacramento Kings, the NBA’s worst team last season, were outscored by less than nine points a contest.

That’s a tough sell with Chris Paul around.

At The Hive, after running through the list of past Hornets head coaches:

So basically, coaches have gone 3 of 7 in their first games with the Hornets. This is the part where, if I were a commentator, I would tell you that the Hornets have a 3 in 7 shot of winning their game tomorrow. You know, historical evidence and what not. Statistics suck, but 20 year old empirical evidence? Ooh, give me some of that.

Adrian Wojnarowski, Yahoo! Sports:

The slacker son of the New Orleans Hornets owner went to Los Angeles with the team and began to grumble about the priorities of the coach. Yes, it was over for Byron Scott now. The old man had crowned Chad Shinn with a VP title and authority on choosing the Honeybees, and even he knew Scott failed to understand the urgency of his plight. With three games in four nights, his franchise in freefall, the coach was planning tee times in SoCal.

“Yeah, that bothered some people,” one Hornets source said.

This wasn’t out of character for Scott. His players wanted a more sophisticated playbook, management wanted longer hours and more diligent preparation and, well, Byron Scott wanted to hit the links. To be fair, this was Scott when he was the NBA’s Coach of the Year, and this was him now.

Embarrassed by the Lakers on Sunday, the Hornets beat the Clippers on Monday, and the team’s departure to Phoenix for Wednesday night’s game had been pushed back to accommodate the coach’s golf game. Scott played 18 holes with his last two allies in the organization, superstar Chris Paul and his brother/business manager, C.J. Paul.

J.E. Skeets, Ball Don’t Lie:

The wildest part about this news — the Coach of the Year curse gets stronger.

That’s right; all four coaches who were honored prior to last year’s winner were fired not too long after winning the COY hardware. In order: Mike D’Antoni, Avery Johnson, Sam Mitchell, and now, Scott. In fact, of the 10 men who were COY winners from 1999 through 2008, just one — San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich — is still employed by the club he won it with.

So you know what that means … you’re next, Mike Brown!

Jeff Eisenberg, The Press-Enterprise:

The man whose team drove the final nail into Byron Scott’s coffin bemoaned the fate of the fired New Orleans coach on Thursday, questioning how the Hornets could axe him after only nine games.

“To me the guy has done a great job down there,” said Phoenix coach Alvin Gentry, whose Suns crushed the Hornets on Wednesday in what turned out to be Scott’s final game. “You coach for two years and win 105 games, you would think you’d have an opportunity to right the ship before you’re replaced, but I don’t know everything that’s going on down there.”…

“We’re all surprised,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. “It’s pretty early in the season.”

Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman on his Thunder blog:

But the Hornets are now in full tailspin mode, with a 3-6 record, a roster compiled of a batch of players that don’t fit, an owner who’s diagnosed with prostate cancer and dire financial concerns and now a new coach who has no NBA head coaching experience but happens to be the GM who put this team together.

Add it all up and the troubles in New Orleans function as the ultimate faux pas for the league’s 29 other franchises. And the reason Thunder fans should be grateful management and ownership has taken the complete opposite approach in Oklahoma City, deploying a patient plan rather than the Hornets’ failed attempt at a quick championship chase.

Hard as it is to fathom, not a single transaction by the Hornets has panned out over the past four years, since the time they made their way to Oklahoma City in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Paul, remember, was drafted in the summer of 2005, before there became a slash in the team’s temporary name.

Quick hitters and video to finish it out:

 

 

Byron Scott photo credit: Tyler Kaufman.
Jeff Bower photo credit: Storm Surge Photo.

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