In the NBA, head coaching positions are a bit like Supreme Court seats. Once you’re in, you’re in. It’s just hard getting your foot in the door.
That may be the only obstacle that has kept Indiana Pacers associate head coach Brian Shaw from having already obtained a head coaching position. With a multiple-championship resume and a history of excellence as both a coach and player, Shaw has paid his dues.
The Nets are expected to request permission to interview Shaw now that Indiana has been eliminated from the playoffs. The Los Angeles Clippers have already contacted Shaw about their coaching vacancy, as well.
This isn’t particularly surprising news considering ESPN’s Chris Broussard reported similar information nearly a month ago, but recent reports certainly give the notion a lot more momentum:
If there’s any truth to the rumors, Brooklyn is making a very wise decision in pursuing the 47-year-old. There may be more experience floating around the coaching market, but it will be hard for any team to find more coaching talent than Shaw has to offer.
Having served under Phil Jackson in his tenure in Los Angeles, Shaw has already been exposed to a shining example of how to build and lead championship contenders. Even as a player, the former guard aided in three championship efforts with the Lakers and was lauded as a tremendous leader and teammate.
That leadership has been apparent in his work with Indiana this season. As noted by USA Today, the associate head coach has had a huge impact on the development of budding star swingman Paul George, who cites Shaw as a major factor in fixing the mistakes typical of a young player:
He's really helped me out. He's the one that gets on me. If I'm not playing well, if things aren't going right, and he knows I'm the reason for it, he'll let me hear about it.
Sure, the same probably holds true for countless NBA assistant coaches and their players, but not many have had the opportunity to be around for the development of Kobe Bryant, both as a player and a contributor. In fact, there probably isn’t a coach in the league short of Jackson who knows the Lakers are well as Shaw.
Intimate knowledge of one of the best-run organizations in professional sports can’t be a bad thing, especially for a team in search of a little direction this offseason.
The Nets could have fared far worse this season under interim coach P.J. Carlesimo, but there’s a fundamental lack of identity in Brooklyn that extends far beyond personnel and scheme. The Nets need continuity and a sense of direction, and Shaw can provide both. After all, he learned from the best.
But aside from Shaw’s resume and the reasons he’s worth the risk, why else should the Nets bother?
For one, there aren’t many candidates with enough upside to warrant wasting another offseason.
Apart from the usual suspects and a couple very intriguing fresh options like Memphis Grizzlies head coach Lionel Hollins, the offseason market is thin this year. Why not take a chance?
If the Nets are to get over the hump in the Eastern Conference, it’s going to take a fundamental shift in philosophy, leadership and talent. With Shaw, Brooklyn will at least have a shot at finding it.