Brian Shaw: Gone Baby Gone?
Back a couple of years ago, when Phil Jackson decided to call it quits with the Los Angeles Lakers, the speculation amongst the masses of “who’s next” siphoned down to assistant coach Brian Shaw and the likelihood that he would be named as the leader of La-La Land. Shaw even received a ringing endorsement from Kobe Bryant, whom he had a great relationship with over the time Shaw was there.
However, as we are aware, that did not happen. Shaw cited that perhaps his relationship with Jackson, who apparently was not as well liked by the Lakers brass as we thought according to Shaw, may have had something to do with this decision to not hire him:
I love the triangle and I love Phil Jackson, and I respect him and I appreciate everything that I was able to accomplish under him,” Shaw said. “But I’m not him. And so we did feel like we were lepers or something. I think somebody said there were 30 championship rings within the coaching staff of the Lakers, and then basically the whole staff is out on the street. Being affiliated and associated with Phil Jackson was to our detriment.
So, Shaw decided that after Frank Vogel had relentlessly pursued him to take an assistant coaching job with the Pacers. Vogel previously had actually worked for Shaw in a scouting capacity for the Lakers, so he appreciated and respected Shaw’s take on the game. Plus, in the defensive-minded East, Shaw’s fit with the Pacers was a bit better than the offensive-minded West, so his presence with the team was an absolute blessing for Vogel, who has called Shaw’s ability to prepare for games as well as player development one of the “best in the NBA”. This obviously showed as the Pacers turned into one of the most improved teams in the NBA last season, and Vogel has never forgotten about his assistant coaches and their impact on the team.
Shaw’s name has never really quite left the rumor mill for coaching positions, but in the past months, his name has surfaced as the frontrunner for not one, but two coaching positions. The biggest speculation has come from Orlando, where the Magic are interviewing Shaw, Jacque Vaughn, and Jeff Hornacek as the most likely replacement for the ousted Stan Van Gundy.
Shaw has also been linked for a while now with the Portland Trail Blazer coaching job, previously amongst such names as Jerry Sloan, Michael Malone, and Quin Snyder. However, Snyder has just bolted for Russia in a curious move to coach a team there, so that has leveled off the playing field a bit. Some have been critical of the Blazers and their lack of effort in finding a head coach, but this also could have been predicated by the thought that they were going to get Roy Hibbert, and maybe they felt that Shaw would come along with that package? I’ve got nothing to back that up, just a theory. Even before the Blazers were in the mix, there were rumors that Shaw was in the running for the Bobcats head coaching job, but removed himself from the short list.
Regardless, Shaw will more than likely not be on the Pacer bench in a few weeks. Yes, he’s at the summer league with the Pacers and was even interviewed about Lance Stephenson during halftime of a game, but that means little to the near future. While he’d be in a rebuilding scenario with Orlando pending the loss of Dwight Howard and Ryan Anderson now wearing a Hornets uniform, the time for him to become a head coach has long been overdue. With 15 years of playing experience and championships as a player and coach, along with the fact that he is so well liked by the players he is involved with–seconded by an interview with former player Mark Madsen–Shaw will be undoubtedly successful if he’s given the proper tools from any team (well….maybe pushing it with the Bobcats). For the Pacers, this will be a blow on a few levels; one, the fact that Shaw offers so much in terms of knowledge and pushing the players, but also in the fact that it could very much change some dynamics on the court because of those relationships that he has fostered. Hibbert’s improved play has been attributed to the coaching change from Jim O’Brien to Vogel, but Shaw has every bit to do with that as well. Plus, at some point, the Pacers will have to play against him!
So, while I am disappointed that Shaw won’t be there to see this team and help it improve even more, I understand the situation, and he will make a great coach. I would think that going to the Blazers would be the better situation short-term, but Orlando is higher profile. No matter what the case, whomever decides to snap him up first will be the ultimate winner.