As recently as the 2004-05 season, the New Orleans Hornets were an NBA joke with an 18-64 record. It looks like the coach of that team, Byron Scott, will get the last laugh.
Before the Hornets take on the Dallas Mavericks in Game 5 of their first-round Western Conference playoff series on Tuesday, Scott will be named the NBA Coach of the Year, according to multiple media reports. ESPN.com confirmed the reports on Monday night.
New Orleans sent a media advisory Monday afternoon, saying it planned a “major announcement” at 11 a.m. ET Tuesday following the Hornets’ game-day shootaround.
Other front-runners for coach of the year included Boston coach Doc Rivers, who led the Celtics to the best record in the NBA (66-16), as well as Houston coach Rick Adelman, who oversaw the Rockets’ improbable 22-game winning streak and helped his team stay competitive after a season-ending foot injury to star center Yao Ming.
Scott led the New Jersey Nets to consecutive trips to the NBA Finals in 2002 and 2003 but lasted only 42 games the next season. He was hired in 2004 to guide a New Orleans team in transition.
A series of moves over the next few years drew as many jeers as cheers. The Hornets traded All-Star guard Baron Davis, drafted undersized point guard Chris Paul, signed aging veteran Peja Stojakovic to a long-term contract and acquired Chicago Bulls castoff Tyson Chandler.
A 16-game improvement in 2005-06 and a run at the playoffs the next season quieted some of the criticism, but few thought Scott would last to see the project through … until this season.
For much of the campaign the Hornets had the best record in the conference and finished with a franchise-record 56-26 mark, good for a No. 2 seed in the West. That drew a matchup with Dallas, who many thought would expose the young Hornets. But Scott and New Orleans have kept proving the doubters wrong.
They go into Game 5 with a surprising 3-1 series lead and their eyes on the Larry O’Brien Trophy which goes to the NBA champ. Scott takes home some hardware of his own first.