At an early age, I was told to take any and every job interview I possibly could. The entire hiring process is a learning experience and, as such, there's always something to gain by talking to people I'd hope to eventually hire me, if not for that immediate job opening. The same thinking can be applied to employers hosting said hiring process.
With the Minnesota Timberwolves and Tom Thibodeau reportedly finalizing a five-year deal to make him the coach and president of basketball operations before the Los Angeles Lakers could even sit down with him, it's hard not to view this as something of a missed opportunity.
The immediate response is to point to the Timberwolves offering Thibs personnel power and how the Lakers never would have made such an offer. This is perfectly fair and, to take it a step further, I'd worry about offering someone as obsessed with winning as he was in Chicago the power to move players with higher upside down the road for players who can help win now. This is a general concern with giving coaches the power to make personnel changes, but is especially worrisome given the concerns that come with Thibs' coaching style.
All that said, to imply that the Lakers, having come off back-to-back-to-back record-setting seasons for losses, could not learn a single thing from anyone is somewhat insane. The Lakers have been historically bad on defense and Thibodeau made his name on that side of the court. By simply asking him about how he'd handle certain situations and picking his brain about his theories on that side of the court, the Lakers put themselves in a situation where they could pick up a thing or two.
Would Thibodeau give away all his coaching ideologies in a single interview? Of course not, but the mere chance that he might shed some light on an aspect of the game the Lakers have been severely lacking for quite some time now makes the interview worth it in and of itself.
I'll use the Los Angeles Dodgers as an example of a smart coaching hire, with the obvious caveat being that Dave Roberts is still in the first month of his managerial career. At the end of last season, they moved quickly and came to the conclusion that Don Mattingly was no longer the right fit for where the team was going. By moving as quickly as they did to part ways with "Donnie Baseball", they ensured themselves the pick of the litter or at least the opportunity to talk to any and all managerial candidates.
They cast a wide net, interviewing upwards of at least half a dozen candidates with all kinds of backgrounds. After they finally chose Roberts, at the introductory press conference, Andrew Friedman spoke about the reason behind such an extensive search and pointed to learning something from each candidate while they make their decision on who fits best. Compare that to the Lakers, who interviewed Byron Scott some ridiculous number of times, and the process they went through is pretty laughable.
Now, like I said, it's incredibly early in Roberts' career to point to him as the ideal coaching candidate, but the process that went into hiring him was pretty tough to question. The Lakers, conversely, have drug their feet in making a decision on Byron, taking them away from consideration for at least one top candidate. That might actually be a best-case scenario, too. If something does speak to this process, it's Joe Maddon's success since Friedman hired him in their shared time in Tampa bay.
Let me explain. The Lakers continuing to employ Byron Scott as of right now, a week removed from the end of their season could mean one of a few things:
- They honestly think he's the right man for the job.
- They can't decide because of disconnect between the business side of the Lakers and the basketball operations team (Jeanie and Jim, for short).
- They really, honestly think Byron Scott, he of 38 wins in two seasons in Los Angeles, is the right man for the job moving forward. I had to repeat this because it hurts.
The first (and third) scenarios seem somewhat unlikely, as the Lakers haven't come out and said anything to that extent. If they really think Byron is their guy, why not just make an announcement and move on as such? The second scenario seems much more likely and, is considerably more worrisome moving forward as the two biggest factions of the organization seem hell-bent on pulling the franchise in two different directions.
People can point to the situation in Minnesota, featuring two of basketball's top prospects as well as a young core surrounding them and the flexibility to acquire talent because youth is cheap and say Thibodeau probably hardly considered the Lakers. I'd probably agree with the sentiment.
I simply cannot fathom why the Lakers would let Byron Scott of all people get in the way of an opportunity to givw one of the brightest defensive minds in the NBA at least one interview. If Thibodeau was so insistent on personnel power (and there are differing reports on whether this was the case), the Lakers could move on from the interview knowing they aren't ready to make that kind of offer. The fact that he was given such power in Minnesota makes it safe to assume he was asking for it in any situation, but it shouldn't preclude the two sides from meeting for a conversation.
With the organization in as dire straights as it currently is, they should be looking for ways to pick up any and all knowledge they can get their hands on. They can't do that, however, while they sit on those aforementioned hands with the worst coach in franchise history.