We all know that Kobe Bryant hates Jim Buss and the rest of the powers that be who currently run the Los Angeles Lakers.
But, as it turns out, Brian Shaw isn’t a fan either.
When the 2010-11 season ended in an embarrassing 4-0 sweep to the Dallas Mavericks, things had to change for the Lakers. Three years of reaching the finals and two years of taking home championships had clearly worn the players down, both mentally and physically.
The latter could be fixed with time, something there is an abundance of given the current lockout situation paralyzing the league. The former, however, wasn’t as easy to solve.
As the Lakers lackadaisically slumbered through most of last year, critics began to wonder aloud whether or not Phil Jackson’s message had grown old. Historically, Jackson’s Zen-like approach tended to work well in three-year intervals, after which his players seemingly tuned out and refused to buy into the mind games and kooky theories that the greatest coach in the history of basketball has become renowned for.
After L.A. got trounced by the Mavericks and Jackson took his leave, his longtime assistant Brian Shaw was rumored to be a potential candidate to fill the void. Shaw was familiar with Jackson’s triangle schemes and had the backing of most of the players, including Bryant.
Unfortunately, given the way the team ended their year, the Lakers brass -- primarily the new de facto boss Jim Buss -- felt it more appropriate to go in a completely different direction. They wiped everything clean and created a new vision for the club, one that, apparently, featured Mike Brown at the helm.
Almost as soon as he arrived on scene, Brown made it clear that this wasn’t going to be your traditional Lakers squad anymore. Defense would become a priority. The triangle would be a thing of the past. And, of course, Jackson’s old assistants -- Shaw included -- needed to pack up their garbage and vacate the offices to make room for the assistants that Brown wanted.
Brown’s decision was entirely reasonable and mostly well-received. New coaches almost always bring on their own staff who they feel comfortable with. But Shaw got the raw end of the deal from every which way. After failing to attain the Lakers head coaching job, he also lost out on the Golden State Warriors job to Mark Jackson before ultimately ending up as a head assistant for the Indiana Pacers.
During a recent radio interview on ESPN (as transcribed by ESPNLA and then CBSSports), Shaw described how he found out about Brown getting the Lakers job he had been pining for.
"Unfortunately, I found about not getting the job and who was hired for the job on ESPN. I didn't really talk to anyone for about three weeks after that."
"At that point, all the speculation and what I've heard, the powers making those decisions felt like the team needed a change of culture and a new voice, and head in a new direction," Shaw said. "I thought that was kind of peculiar because in the 12 years I'd been there, all we had done was gone to the championship seven times and won five championships. I felt like there were 29 other teams in the league that would love to have that kind of culture and that kind of direction. ... But I didn't expect anything to be handed to me."
"For whatever reason, there was a glitch in communication. ... I've always had a great relationship and open line of communication with (general manager) Mitch Kupchak so I don't think it came from there," Shaw said. "We've always been on good terms and are still on good terms. I understand in his position there's only so much that he can do even. He has people over his head that he has to follow directions. ... Definitely there's some room for improvement in terms of how ... people are dealt with."
Ouch. Shaw also noted that he and the younger Buss in charge, Jim, didn’t have much of a relationship. Shocking. If you remember, Jackson in his exit interviews alluded to a similar lack of communication between him and Jim. It seems as though the owner's son wasn't a particularly big fan of the guy sleeping with his sister or any of his buddies.
Understandably, Shaw appears a bit irked at how things ended up going with the Lakers. Although he insists that it was the way things ended versus what happened that rubs him the wrong way, it’s clear that L.A.’s decision to note hire him plays a pretty big role in this. On top of not getting the job he was favored for -- and probably, in all honesty, expected -- the poor guy got booted as an assistant and is now forced to work in the Twilight Zone that is Indiana.
At the end of the day the universe has a funny way of working itself out, though. The coaches who are meant to be head coaches end up as head coaches. The coaches who aren’t, don’t. The team heads who know what they’re doing thrive in their roles. The ones that don’t, well, they’ll eventually end up somewhere in the New York Knicks front office where they belong.