Paul unsure of need for Scott firing
NEW ORLEANS -- Chris Paul's loss was Tim Floyd's gain.
From here on into the foreseeable future, they'll win and lose together.
Paul said he was not sure firing Byron Scott as head coach was the change the struggling New Orleans Hornets needed to make. Floyd said the opportunity to rejoin the club as a top assistant "seemed like a perfect scenario for me."
Floyd, a former head coach for New Orleans, formally returned to the club at a Friday morning shootaround as the Hornets began preparations -- under new head coach and former Floyd assistant Jeff Bower -- to play the Portland Trail Blazers later that night.
Before Paul took the court, he said he understood that change was inevitable after the Hornets struggled to a 3-6 start that included several blowout losses. Still, he was sad to part ways with the only NBA coach he's ever known since being drafted by New Orleans out of Wake Forest in 2005.
"Obviously change needed to occur. I'm not sure that's what should have happened," Paul said. "I'm not sure it was all coach's fault. You can [only] play with the cards you're dealt. It's a tough situation. The team went a different direction. Now we've got to play."
Paul spoke with Scott after the coaching change took place on Thursday. The two had grown close in the past four-plus seasons, sometimes playing golf together, and Paul has said he was closer to Scott than some of his own relatives.
"Coach was more than a coach to me. He was a mentor, someone who has made me the player I am today," Paul said.
"I'm not blind to the fact that things happen," Paul continued. "I'm not that emotional, where I'm like, 'Man, this can't happen to coach.' It's just a tough situation. ... I'm hoping we can just turn this thing around. It's all about winning with me."
Paul also expressed disappointment over how little he knew about the change before it was announced.
"I've been with this team for five years now and have been nothing but humble and all about the team," Paul said. "I wish I would have known, you know, before everyone else knew because it was a shock to me.
"You don't have to have my approval. I'm just a player. ... Just let me know."
It was clear that Scott, who was in the last year of his contract, began the season on a short leash after the team declined to discuss an extension with him following a disappointing first-round exit from the playoffs last spring.
On Wednesday night, the Hornets lost in Phoenix, 124-104, in a game that saw the Suns take an early double-digit lead and dominate throughout. It was the second lopsided loss in a 1-2 road trip that apparently persuaded the Hornets' front office it could not wait any longer to make a change.
Bower now will serve in a dual role as general manager and coach. He lured Floyd back after the decision was made to part with Scott.
Floyd, who is from Hattiesburg, Miss., has long kept a residence in the New Orleans area and had moved back after resigning from Southern California last June amid allegations he paid to have former USC star O.J. Mayo delivered to the Trojans. An NCAA probe of the matter is ongoing.
"We had just moved here and not even entertained the thought of this and Jeff called," Floyd said of his return to the NBA. "There had been other opportunities ... but this one just felt right. It felt perfect and I'm looking forward to it."
Floyd said he is eager to return to the ranks of an assistant for the first time in 23 years, allowing him to focus exclusively on teaching and strategy, without worrying about the scrutiny, the questions and other media obligations that come with a head coaching role.
"I can't tell you how thrilled I am about that," he said, grinning, to a swarm of reporters.
Floyd, whose head coaching stops have included the University of New Orleans, Iowa State and the Chicago Bulls, coached the Hornets in 2003-04, going 41-41 before losing a first-round series to Miami in seven games. He then went back to coaching in college, leading USC to three NCAA tournaments. While working on the West Coast, he watched in horror as Hurricane Katrina ravaged the city he'd long called home, and he was eager to become a part of this rebuilding community again.
Although his return to the Hornets was sudden and unexpected, he said he wasn't all that surprised that his move back to New Orleans would lead to a new opportunity.
"Over the course of the last five years and just watching how crazy life is and the strange things that happen, I'm not surprised with anything anymore," Floyd said. "This place presented itself to us after Chicago. It was like a gift from Heaven at that time. It didn't work out. We're going through another transition right now. It's here again. This place has always been home to me. It just works out."
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press