Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Scott takes high road out of New Jersey

(Bridgewater, N.J.) Courier News

PHILADELPHIA - Byron Scott spent the day after his dismissal returning phone calls, doing chores around the house and he planned on watching the New Jersey Nets take on the Philadelphia 76ers on the television Tuesday night.

In other words, the winningest coach in Nets' history was having little problem adjusting to being a former coach. And instead of feeling pain about being fired by the team, Scott said he felt relief on Tuesday.

"I did tell my wife (Anita) that it is a load off my shoulders," Scott said in a telephone interview on Tuesday. "With all the speculation about me getting fired and every loss seemed to be my fault, it was kind of like a relief that it's over. Now I just think about the next chapter."

The beginning of the end of the first chapter of Scott's coaching career came Monday morning right after he dropped off his son, DaRon, at school and headed for the team's practice facility. The cell phone rang. It was Nets president Rod Thorn telling him he wanted to speak with him when he arrived.

"I've had a couple of incidents in my life where I got a phone call like this and said something in almost a joking manner," Scott said. "So I said to myself, 'OK, I wonder what this is about. Maybe it's about Hubert (Davis, the newest Net) or he wants to talk about playing Eddie Griffin.'

"Then I thought, 'Maybe he's going to fire me.' Then I thought, 'Hmm, well if it happens, I'll be ready for it.' "

Thorn, of course, gave Scott the bad news. His initial reaction was disappointment, but also understanding.

"I was always thinking that it would have worked itself out if I was able to stay," Scott added. "But I also understand where they were coming from. A 22-20 record is not acceptable. I know we were a much better basketball team and that we haven't played that way for whatever reason."

Scott said he believed he was still getting through to the players, despite the team's ups-and-downs and not having a contract beyond this season. As for how much Jason Kidd had to do with his firing, Scott insisted he could only go by how Kidd interacted with him, one-on-one.

"We can be in the same room together," Scott said. "We can have dinner together. We can play golf together. All the other stuff is speculation that I can't really answer because when I'm around J-Kidd, we have a very good relationship.

"I can't deny or believe all the things people are saying about (Kidd wanting Scott fired) because, from my standpoint, he never let that be known to me. Until I hear it from him, I can't believe it."

Scott, who guided New Jersey to the NBA Finals the past two years, isn't sure what the future holds for him. Obviously, there has always been speculation that his next job could be back with the Los Angeles Lakers, the team he played for most of his career. If Lakers coach Phil Jackson passes Red Auerbach for most NBA titles as a coach this season and decides to retire, the spot could open up.

Another scenario could unfold with the Phoenix Suns, especially if Kobe Bryant, who Scott once mentored, considers the team as a free agent next summer. Scott attended Arizona State. And current coach Mike D'Antoni is serving on an interim basis.

"There were so many different changes last summer, but I don't think there's going to be that many after this season," Scott said. "But obviously, I'm open to any opportunity and it doesn't necessarily have to be for coaching. I did some TV with ESPN two years ago and really enjoyed it.

"But for now, I'm just really looking forward to spending more time with my family. My wife has a 'Honey-Do' list that's a mile-long. So I'll keep busy."

Scott said he wouldn't adjust his coaching style based on whatever failures he had with the Nets, but on whatever his new team would need.

"Different players means a different situation," he said. "But I learned a heck of a lot in 3-1/2 years with the Nets. I want to continue to get better as a coach.

"I had nothing to be ashamed of here. I think I did as good a job as you could. But as you go on, you're always trying to learn. Once you think you can't grow, then it's probably time to get out of the business and go on to something else anyway."

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