Kyrie Irving was surprised, disappointed and deeply hurt. With everything the Cavaliers’ All-Star guard has experienced during two seasons in the NBA, nothing prepared him for this.
This was as painful as any injury.
“I just lost my head coach,” Irving said, his voice barely above a whisper. “This is all new to me right now. I’m just trying to get over the loss of my basketball father.”
A Cleveland team has ditched yet another coach.
Byron Scott was fired Thursday by the Cavaliers following three losing seasons in which the team did not play well defensively or make satisfactory progress for owner Dan Gilbert. Scott was dismissed one day after the Cavs finished an 82-game rollercoaster of a season that included injuries, blown leads, far too many uninspired performances and a dismal final month.
Scott’s firing, which seemed inevitable as the Cavs dragged themselves through the past few weeks, was especially tough on Irving. The 21-year-old had formed a tight bond with Scott and hated to see it severed.
“I feel like a piece of me is missing now,” Irving said. “Just coming into the league and being drafted by him. The relationship I developed over the two years with him has been very special. It’s hurtful.”
Scott went 64-166 in his three years with the Cavs, who were weakened by injuries this season but lost four games they led by more than 20 points and often played without passion. Scott was fired one day after Cleveland closed another frustrating season with its sixth straight loss to finish 24-58 — the NBA’s third-worst record.
And so, the Cavs, just six seasons removed from their only trip to the NBA finals with superstar LeBron James, are looking for their third coach in five seasons. They follow the city’s Indians and Browns, who both made coaching changes after last season.
With just 13 games under his belt, Indians manager Terry Francona is already the longest tenured team leader in town.
Cavs general manager Chris Grant will begin the search to find Scott’s replacement immediately. He said getting a coach in place is “our top priority.”
“We’ll look for someone with proven success and somebody who is strong defensively with proven systems,” he said. “We’ll look for somebody who is a teacher, a grinder and worker. Certainly we’re excited about some of the pieces we have, but we’ve got to get better.”