With the process of hiring of Byron Scott as the next Head Coach of the Los Angeles Lakers finalized as of Monday, one aspect of the media coverage and fan reaction during both the aftermath of, and lead up to, Scott's hiring has struck me as odd, the much bandied about idea that as a former "Showtime" Laker, Scott knows what it will take to restore the luster of the Lakers franchise. While it may be true that Scott and his other "Showtime" brethren experienced great success as Lakers players, as coaches, it has been an entirely different story.
Is being a "Showtime" Laker a plus as a head coach?
When looking at players who would be considered key contributors during the "Showtime" era, there is a five name sample size from which to draw from as those who went on to coach at the NBA level: Scott, Kurt Rambis, Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Michael Cooper. Out of these five men, Magic spent the shortest amount of time "pursuing" a coaching career, only coaching a brief 16 game stint at the end of the season in 1994, taking over the Lakers for the fired Randy Pfund. During his time at the helm, Johnson went 5 and 11 and in his own words "I never wanted the job, let's be clear...I did (late Lakers owner Jerry) Buss a favor by taking that job", so he may not actually be the best example, but still technically was an NBA head coach, unlike (much to Abdul-Jabbar's chagrin), his "Skyhook" perfecting teammate.
In spite of some vocal campaigning, or perhaps due in part to it, Kareem has never sniffed a head coaching job, even with his time as an assistant with both the Lakers as well as the Clippers, so he does not have a handy winning percentage listed on Basketball Reference to reference. However, while one hates to make assumptions (the whole "makes an ass out of u and me" thing), there are probably reasons that Abdul-Jabbar has not landed a head job. Whether there is a real bias against big men as head coaches, or some more personal reason, if there were some "Showtime" fairy dust that could fix franchises, Kareem did not seem to get any.
If there were magical fairy dust for ruining NBA franchises, Kurt Rambis certainly might know where to find it. The much beloved and be-goggled garbage man with those "Showtime" squads formed a whatever-the-opposite-of-formidable-is tandem with GM David Kahn to drive the Timberwolves to the depths of the league, while making lists like this one. That, combined with his interim stint with the Lakers, led him to a .279 win percentage as a head coach, which ranks 258th (out of 313 coaches) all time, further weakening the argument that playing for the "Showtime" Lakers is a factor leading to success as a head coach. The only real positive (for Lakers fans at least) on Rambis's coaching resume may be that he still could end up doing more for the Lakers than Scott will, if the animosity towards the Minnesota franchise that he helped foster in Kevin Love leads to him joining the Lakers as a free agent next summer. But overall, not a strong argument for the "'Showtime' Lakers players know how to restore a franchise to glory" crowd.
Last of these former Lakers is Michael Cooper (prayers to he and his family), who has had great success in the WNBA, but very little in the men's league. Like Kareem, he paid his dues as an assistant, but unlike the big man, Cooper did get a small interim stint with the Denver Nuggets during the 2004-05 season, after the firing of Jeff Bzdelik. Cooper coached just 14 games, racking up a 4-10 record until George Karl was brought into replace him. As with Abdul-Jabbar, the fact that he has not gotten a sniff before or since for another head spot does say something of the confidence in his abilities that NBA executives have behind the scenes.
Other "Showtime" players who went on to become head coaches include such luminaries as Larry Drew (.458 winning percentage, recently fired from Milwaukee), Eddie Jordan (.428), and Bob McAdoo (has spent eighteen seasons as a Heat assistant, but never really gotten a real look for an NBA head coaching job that I could find).
So when looking at how all of these former Lakers have fared as head coaches, it is fair to wonder how exactly it can be seen as an endorsement on Scott's resume that he was a (very successful) player during the "Showtime" Era. None of these coaches inspire a particular confidence that there was some experience or magic bits of future coaching wisdom that "Showtime" architect Pat Riley was sharing with them that would make it such a large plus for a current Lakers coach to have been a member of the "Showtime" teams. In fact, it would seem that while Riley's coaching tree has been a tremendous success in terms of his former assistants, notably Erik Spoelstra and the Van Gundy Brothers, his former players did not receive any such boost from their time under him, with none of these ones observed being able hold a winning percentage above Drew's .458 (for what it's worth, Scott's .444 is second), meaning that they have all lost significantly more games than they have won at the helm.
None of this is to say that being a former "Showtime" player is to blame for these men's lack of success as head coaches, it just seemed prevalent to point out that as a qualification to be a head coach, it does not seem to be a particularly good one. This is why it worries me that this "Showtime" point, as well as that he has a good relationship with Kobe, seem to be the only positives that Byron's advocates can mention when championing the decision choose him to be the 25th head coach in franchise history. What would seem to be much more relevant are things like the fact that this supposedly defensively minded head coach is the only head coach to have team in the bottom five in defensive efficiency three years in a row since the league expanded to 30 teams. Things like that are why I am hunkering down for the more likely way that Byron Scott may lead the Lakers back to "Showtime" levels of glory: coaching them to a bottom five record and top five pick in the 2015 draft.