Byron Scott Remains in Cavs' Picture Even as Tom Izzo Schedules Visit
But if the Izzo plan falters, the Cavs clearly have a Plan B: Byron Scott.
League sources confirmed to FanHouse that the former New Jersey Nets and New Orleans Hornets head coach, who is now working as an ESPN analyst, has been in discussions with members of the Cavaliers front office about the position. And while an interview has not been scheduled, the process is expected to move forward quickly so long as Izzo's name hasn't been signed to a contract. The discussions were first reported by ESPN's Chris Broussard.
The pursuit of Scott has been at least a week in the making, with Cavaliers general manager Chris Grant inquiring about the former Laker even before former general manager Danny Ferry resigned on Friday. The two sides have only begun talking in recent days, with the Cavs making it clear that they hold Scott in high regard for his work as a coach and a player.
Reached by phone, Scott's agent, Brian McInerney, would not offer any clarity on the situation.
"Communications regarding coach Scott and any team should be released by team, so we won't confirm or deny any stories circulating on the Internet," McInerney said.
Yet it's the conversations that have taken place about Scott -- and not the ones with him -- that may be carrying the most weight.
Cavaliers star and free-agent-to-be LeBron James is believed to have done some background work of his own, inquiring with Chris Paul about the former coach with whom the Hornets point guard has always had a strong bond. Despite Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert's recent statements that James is not influencing personnel decisions, his interest in Scott curiously coincides with that of the Cavs and is akin to a similar dynamic within the Lakers. Scott is seen by some as the likely successor to Phil Jackson when he departs partly because of his strong ties to Kobe Bryant.
Scott has had his share of contentious relationships with prominent players in his past, namely point guards Jason Kidd (Nets) and Baron Davis (Hornets). But he still boasts unique credibility among some of the game's best competitors, in large part because of his history of success. He won three championships with the Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar-led Lakers as a player, then took New Jersey to the NBA Finals in 2002 and 2003. In 2007-08, Scott was named the league's Coach of the Year after leading the Hornets to the Western Conference semifinals. He was fired nine games into last season.
James, meanwhile, is said to prefer that his next coach have played in the league. Izzo doesn't fit that description, but the Cavs have gone a long way toward trying to hire him anyways and reportedly have offered Izzo the job. Whether that means the team had talked general or specific parameters about a contract isn't known, but Izzo has talked to confidantes at Michigan State about taking the Cleveland job, including former Spartans coach Jud Heathcote, according to the Detroit News.
Izzo has not commented on the Cavs job, except to say the reports exaggerated the reality of his talks with the Cavs. While conceding they had talked to Izzo, Gilbert and Grant also stressed they had talked to other candidates and would continue to talk to other candidates.
The Cavs said they were not consulting James on the coaching hire, and James evidently does not want to be involved. But to say James is not a factor is also not realistic. The team is pressing forward with its search with an eye on doing what will help them win, which they say will help them keep James.
The team has no timetable on the hire. Grant said several times that the Cavs would continue the search until they found "the right guy."
FanHouse's Pat McManamon contributed to this report.