Now in his third year as the Cavs' head coach, Byron Scott has a young team and a lot of promise on his hands with the Wine and Gold this season. Scott previously coached the New Jersey Nets, taking them to the NBA finals twice, and the New Orleans Hornets. Before that, he was a key player on the "Showtime" Los Angeles Lakers with Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, where he won three NBA championships. We caught up with Scott after a recent pre-season practice and talked to him about running the NBA's toughest training camp, rookie hazing, Dan Gilbert, and all the fabulous places he goes out to eat.
Where do you keep your rings?
I keep them at home, except for three that I keep in a little vault in a bank. What I did years ago, I had three other ones made that were fake, so to speak, that look like the real ones. I wear those around, because I don't want the real ones out. I go back and check in on the real ones three or four times a year. I just like pulling them out and looking at them, even though they look just like the other ones. They're the real ones.
Did you ever pull a Pat Riley and bring the real ones out in front of the rookies and younger players?
I haven't done that here yet, but I did it in New Jersey and New Orleans. When I think we're at the point with this team where we can compete for a championship, that's when I'll pull them out and show them that this is what you're playing for.
Do you take a little bit or a ton of joy from knowing you run one of the hardest training camps in the NBA, like a military boot camp, where players talk about the possibility of puking afterward?
I take a lot of joy. No one's puked yet this year. But when I hear from around the league that Camp Scott is one of the hardest camps out there, I take a lot of pride. I know that guys know when they come here, they have to work hard, and that's the bottom line. I learned from one of the best in Pat Riley.
Cleveland, New Orleans, New Jersey, Los Angeles. One of those places really doesn't belong.
This is my third year here, and I spend the majority of my time in Cleveland. When I do go back to L.A., it's normally right after the season for a couple of weeks. Then I come back and start getting prepared for the draft and the season. I love Cleveland. It's a wonderful city, and the people are fantastic. Just like everywhere else, every city has a negative. Cleveland's is the weather. But I've been dealing with that for years — I was in Jersey for five years — so it doesn't bother me one bit.
What are your three favorite restaurants here?
I don't go out that much, so I couldn't really name any restaurants. I've been to, what's it called, Lola's, which I love. But other than that, I'm pretty much at home. The wife cooks dinner, and if not, we have a really great chef back there [with the Cavs] who hooks me up almost every other night when my wife's back home. He has a salmon that's off the chain.
There have been some funny rookie initiation stories out of Cleveland in past years, most notably Delonte West making the rookies bring in doughnuts every day. What are some of your favorite rookie initiation stories that either happened to you or that you witnessed?
Uh, my favorite rookie initiation was real simple. They asked me to get Kareem a glass of water. [Laughs.] That was it. They didn't treat me like we treat rookies nowadays, and how we treated rookies after that. I guess one of the reasons was that I came in late — I didn't sign until the second-to-last preseason game with the Lakers. All the rookie initiations were pretty much done by then, and I fell into it the next year without them making me do anything. I saw what rookies were put through and I was like, "Woo!" I'm glad I wasn't there for that.
One year, we were in Palm Springs, and we made the rookies get on a diving board and walk all the way to the end and sing their fight song. The rookies said, "We're not singing." We said we'd push them in. One rookie said, "I can't swim." We said, "I guess you're going to drown then." It was Magic, and then Kareem, who was the enforcer. You didn't want to mess with them. I'm glad I didn't have to do that. I didn't know my fight song. But if you didn't know the fight song, we just asked you to sing your favorite song, just do some singing. I see what a lot of these guys go through and the memories come back, not of going through it, but watching. I was lucky.
Where's Nick Gilbert's permanent courtside seat? Shouldn't the Cavs' lucky charm be there every game?
His time is very limited nowadays with school and everything, but he's pretty much courtside when he's here. Here's our bench, and he's right over on the side. When he's there, we see him, and when he's here at practice, he makes himself known. He loves the game, and he loves to be out shooting with our guys.
Zydrunas Ilgauskas could still play if he wanted to, right?
If Big Z wanted to play, he could play. I told him when he was playing with some of our guys over the summer, I said, "I would only play you 10-15 minutes...per quarter." [Laughs.] No, I said I would play him 10-15 minutes per half. And he said, "No, coach. I'm done." But he could play if he wanted to. I understand Big Z was very popular and people love him, especially after all he went through with his foot injuries just to get back on the court. It showed what type of guy he is.
Who wins in a game of HORSE, you or GM Chris Grant?
Me and Chris Grant in a game of HORSE is not a contest. Not a contest. Not a contest. I win that hands down.
What about you and Kyrie?
That'd be a little more difficult. There are a number of players out here that I could definitely beat, as long as there's no dunking. I can't dunk anymore, older legs. If it's just shooting and trick shots, though, there's a number of guys here I can beat.
Now that Jimmy Haslam's purchase of the Browns is complete and basketball season is getting underway, maybe folks will pay attention to you guys a bit.
We know that right now it's football season. We don't mind sharing the spotlight with any of the other teams here. Sometime in December when football is all said and done, they'll tune into the Cavs, and it'll be a very exciting season. We have some exciting young players.
Are you a casino guy?
I am not. I've been to the Horseshoe once, on opening night. Dan has done an unbelievable job, but I figure, since he's paying me, why should I start giving money back? I'm not going to the casino. Now my wife, on the other hand, would love to go every week. But daddy won't let her.