By Brandon I. Brooks
Special to the NNPA from the Los Angeles Sentinel
Los Angeles Lakers head coach Byron Scott is living his wildest dream. He gets to coach his hometown Lakers team, which is the team he idolized growing up in Inglewood, California playing basketball at Morningside High School.
The best part about Byron’s dream is he gets to share it with his son Thomas Scott, who works on the Lakers staff as an Assistant Coach in player development.
Thomas, parallel to his father, is living his wildest dream coaching for the Lakers. He grew up idolizing the Lakers but unlike his father, he grew up with the reality of the NBA as a backdrop.
“It all started when I was a kid and every summer, I was able to go a basketball camp,” said Thomas. “I was very fortunate and blessed to go to my dad’s basketball camp twice a summer. It was kind of non-negotiable but I wanted to do it. I love basketball. Being a shadow of my dad trying to go to practice with him on Saturday morning, going to games on the weekends and trying to get there on weekdays and things like that. I was exposed to a lot of stuff.”
During the 1980’s, Byron Scott was NBA royalty winning three championships (1985, 1987, 1988) as a critical part of the “Showtime Lakers” led by Magic Johnson with teammates Kareem Abdul–Jabbar and James Worthy. Byron went on to play for the Indiana Pacers, Vancouver Grizzlies, and again with the Lakers, who had drafted a high school rookie named Kobe Bryant and acquired a big fish through free agency named Shaquille O’neal. Scott was instrumental as a leader for the Lakers and a tandem destined for greatness during what is deemed now as the Shaq and Kobe era.
Scott would leave the Lakers and play one more season of basketball overseas for the Greek Basket League team Panathinaikos. Fittingly, Scott led them to a championship going out on top, ending a storied Hall of Fame playing career.
Byron pursued a career in coaching immediately after he finished playing in 1998. He became an assistant for the Sacramento Kings and next got his first head-coaching gig as head coach of the New Jersey Nets leading them to two back – to-back finals appearances. Scott would later coach for the New Orleans Hornets winning coach of the year in 2008. He also coached the Cleveland Cavilers before getting his dream job as the Lakers head coach this past season.
“You know I imagined it and I dreamed about it”, said Byron when asked did he ever imagine his wildest dreams would come true.
“When I played for the Lakers and got into coaching, I always said its the ultimate job. Larry Brown who was a great coach, was one of my coaches during my NBA career, he always talked about the New York Knicks would be his dream job. When I heard that, I started thinking okay, what would be my dream job? It was real quick it was like the Lakers! That would be my dream job to come back here and coach the purple and gold.”
Byron believes his story can inspire many to dream big. “You know I dreamed of playing for the Lakers, I dreamed about playing in the NBA, I dreamed about coaching the Lakers, if you truly believe in your dreams and if you truly believe in the man upstairs there are so many things that are possible. This is one of those dreams that if I pass away in the next years, I pretty much fulfilled everything that I wanted to fulfill. So I would be a happy man.”
Byron raised his son Thomas to dream big and never ask for a handout. Thomas always had to battle the bright lights of Hollywood and the fact that his dad was a famous NBA player. It’s hard for any kid with a successful father to follow in his footsteps but Thomas never seemed detoured or intimidated by the spotlight.
While coaching in New Orleans (Hornets), Byron saw that Thomas was ready to step into the professional world of basketball but had to earn his place if he was going to gain any respect.
“I didn’t want anybody to ever come back and say well the only reason Thomas is coaching is because his dad is coaching, his dad gave that to him,” said Byron.
“I wanted him to earn everything so the first thing in New Orleans, he was an assistant video coordinator, in Cleveland, he was a player development coach. Cleveland loved the way he worked and the way he related to players. They wanted him to be an assistant coach for the D-League team (Canton Charge) and he comes to L.A. and becomes and assistant for the D-League team (Los Angeles D-fenders). So at that particular time when I got the job and I talked to Mitch Kupchak and told him I wanted to hire him and put him on my staff. The good thing is they had watched him in the D-League so they thought he was extremely good with the players as well. So he had the resume at that time to make that leap. It wasn’t like I was giving him anything he had worked and earned it. That was the first thing I wanted him to do and he continues to do. If he continues to work the way he’s been working and he’s been getting accolades from the NBA to go the China this year to be an assistant coach out there, these are all the things he’s done on his own. The only thing I really did is I put him in the position to earn it and he did all the hard work.”
Thomas with the support and collaboration of his father has created You Ball Training, which is a company that provides basketball skills training from a professional level to athletes of all ages.
Led by Thomas, the organization provides a promising path towards improvement by his “Basketball Boot Camp” approach. “If you want to get better it takes hard work everyday, repetition equals progression,” says Thomas.
“Growing up you think that’s normal, seeing Magic Johnson talking to you, Kobe Bryant is asking you to rebound for him and different things like that when you are in middle school and that’s not normal. Reggie Miller giving you pointers on how to shoot and things like that. I was trying to find myself in terms of what do I love and how can I help people? And I realized God blessed me to be in the presence of greatness and pick the brains of people and players so I ended up developing You Ball Training to pass it on because if I wasn’t able to pass this information on, it would be all for a waste.”
“So I felt like it was my duty on this earth to pass on all this information that I was able to be around and all the exchanges I was able to have at an early age. I also had a chance to reflect on how important those things were as a kid and how it impacted my life so I want kids to be able to have that same experience and have that impact. I run into people that are in there thirties that say, man I remember Byron Scott basketball camp. I want to be able to be an old man and when I see young adults that are doing well for themselves and they say thank you for the lessons you taught me at You Ball Training basketball camps. That is pretty much the reason why I got into doing this.”
Byron is the catalyst of his family and has always kept his kids grounded in faith. “I think its (faith) very important, I think first of all it makes your family a whole. I think when your family prays together they stay together,” said Byron.
“We had three young kids at the time (Thomas, LonDen & DaRon), Anita and I, and every Sunday we would try to go to church. Now we didn’t make it every Sunday but we wanted to get them involved in the church and just let them know and introduce them to our heavenly father just to let them know how we felt. And my father, Thomas’ grandfather was instrumental in doing that as well. So I think from a spiritual standpoint, you know in our family it was always God first, then family, then we thought about the individual things we want to do or we want to achieve and I think we raised our kids to believe in that to this very day. So they understand how important it is to have God in their lives.”
When asked to describe their father and son relationship, Thomas said he can always call on his dad for advice and different things. “I feel like I am there for him in a lot of ways, different ways that nobody else can be there for him,” said Thomas. “We are always trying to support each other. We are around each other so much at work, we try to give each other our distance but at the same time we have a really good relationship. I am constantly learning from him. And we’ve got the same kind of personality in terms of temper and keeping things light but also working really hard. And that kind of credits our relationship I think.”
Like father, like son. No better saying can be said for two individuals that love what they do, love the people they get to do it with and love where they get to do it.
The city of Los Angeles is home to Byron Scott and Thomas Scott and will always be home, no matter where they go.