Cavs, Scott reach deal

Published 1:58 am Friday, July 2, 2010

CLEVELAND — With LeBron or without LeBron, Byron Scott is back coaching in the NBA.

The Cavaliers hired the former New Orleans coach on Thursday, finalizing a reported four-year contract on the same day superstar LeBron James officially became a free agent and heard offers from other teams hoping to lure him away from Cleveland.

Scott, who twice led New Jersey to the NBA finals and won three titles as a player, will be introduced by the Cavs at a 3 p.m. news conference on Friday.

Email newsletter signup

“This is a great job and an impressive organization and I am very happy to be a part of it,” Scott said in a statement released by the Cavs. “Everything about it just felt like a really good fit for both me and the team. I am anxious to get going and to build on the success the Cavaliers have experienced in recent years.”

Scott’s hiring came after a strange series of events. At one point, it appeared the Cavaliers were nearing a deal with Los Angeles Lakers assistant Brian Shaw before the team returned to negotiations with Scott on Wedneday. The sides then negotiated through the night before the 49-year-old accepted the job, an agreement his agent Brian McInerney confirmed to the AP early Thursday.

“Byron’s combination of high-level success and depth of experience, both as a head coach and as a player, is a tremendous asset for our organization,” Cavs general manager Chris Grant said. “He is a strong leader with a proven track record of winning in both the regular season and the playoffs. We’re excited for coach Scott to get started.”

He still doesn’t know if he’ll have James to coach.

On the first day of his ballyhooed free agency, James listened to offers from the New Jersey Nets and New York Knicks. He’ll be visited by the Miami Heat and Los Angeles Clippers on Friday, followed by the Chicago Bulls and then maybe another visit with the Cavs, who have been in contact with the two-time MVP throughout the offseason.

Now James knows who would be coaching him if he does return to Cleveland.

Scott was working as a TV analyst, but decided it’s time to get back to doing what he loves most.

The Cavs have been looking for a coach since Mike Brown was fired May 24, ending a five-year run with the club. Brown guided James and his teammates through the most successful run in franchise history, but fell short of winning a championship.

Scott’s hiring ends a twisting drama to the search.

Shaw appeared to be the favorite to become Cleveland’s coach after an impressive two-day meeting with owner Dan Gilbert and Grant earlier this week. As of Tuesday, Shaw was reported to be assembling a staff to bring to Cleveland.

But despite the Cavaliers seemingly moving toward a deal with Shaw — to the point where McInerney sent out a congratulatory e-mail to Shaw through several news outlets — Gilbert never offered him a job and Grant reopened talks with Scott on Wednesday.

Scott’s dream has been to coach the Lakers, but with Phil Jackson returning to the champions, he has decided to take on the Cavs, who could be better positioned to re-sign James with Scott on the sideline.

James has said he would like to play for a former NBA player, and Scott’s resume includes 14 pro seasons — 11 with the Lakers. He was a teammate of Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and James Worthy on L.A.’s famed “Showtime” teams under coach Pat Riley and later with Kobe Bryant. He knows what it takes to win it all.

As a coach, Scott took lesser-talented Nets teams to the finals in 2002 and 2003 and had a solid relationship with star Jason Kidd that eventually unraveled toward the end of the point guard’s time in New Jersey. In New Orleans, Scott took the Hornets on a surprising run to the Western Conference finals in 2008 and was close with guard Chris Paul, who is James’ best friend in the league.

Before finally hiring Scott, the Cavs had an unsuccessful pursuit of Michigan State’s Tom Izzo, who rejected a reported $30 million to stay with the Spartans. Cleveland was in touch with Scott during the entire search and Gilbert hosted him at his home in Michigan on Father’s Day.

Scott has a combined record of 352-355, including 33-24 in the postseason with the Nets and Hornets.