Finally, an NBA Team Is Smart Enough to Hire Brian Shaw

Zach BuckleyNational NBA Featured ColumnistJune 24, 2013

After years of searching and too many interviews to count, former player and longtime assistant coach Brian Shaw has finally landed his sought-after gig. Per Benjamin Hochman and The Denver Post, the Denver Nuggets have hired Shaw as their next head coach.

Shaw joins the Nuggets after spending the last two seasons as Frank Vogel's lead assistant with the Indiana Pacers, and he previously worked (and played) under Phil Jackson with the Los Angeles Lakers.

And his mentor couldn't have been happier to hear the news:

Despite garnering heavy interest and numerous interviews for coaching spots over the last few summers, Shaw had been unable to secure a head-coaching position. Hoopsworld's Steve Kyler recently reported that iffy interview skills are what really held him back.

But Shaw didn't need to say too much to convince Denver that he was the right man for their job; the two parties appear to be the perfect fit.

Thanks in part to his 14-year playing career, he's shown an uncanny ability to relate to players. He's highly regarded for his player development skills and was seen as instrumental in the improvements of several young players, including recent first-time All-Star Paul George.

Coming off a 57-win season, the Nuggets employ one of the younger rosters in the league, with four of their five core starters all under the age of 26. But one young player in particular, 25-year-old JaVale McGee, reportedly factored heavily in Denver's decision to let go of reigning Coach of the Year George Karl.

The team was less than thrilled with Karl's handling of McGee, who managed just 18.1 minutes per game after signing a four-year, $44 million contract extension in Denver last summer.

Shaw already appears willing to build his style around the team's current talent, which might negate Phil Jackson's claim that the team is ready for a "system offense." Despite playing and coaching in Jackson's preferred triangle offense, Shaw told Hochman he's willing to run whatever system best suits his team:

Although I played in the triangle and coached the triangle, I also played in a lot of systems, so that's not something I'm looking to bring to the Nuggets and try to implement. I'm going to look at a lot of film of things the team did well, running was one of them. And I'll continue to build on things they did well and get more of a feel for the personnel and what I think will be conducive to everybody's ability.

Even though Andre Iguodala plans to opt out of his contract and test the free-agent waters, Denver has one of the more athletically gifted rosters in the league. With speedster Ty Lawson running the point, stretch forwards Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari filling the forward spots, and bigs McGee and Kenneth Faried wreaking havoc above the rim, Shaw won't want to restrict his new team's ability to run.

Despite Denver's frenetic offensive pace, the Nuggets did post a top-half defensive rating under Karl last season (102.0). But Shaw will be looking to fill whatever leaks exist in Denver's defense after helping Vogel and the Pacers put together the league's stingiest defense in 2012-13 (96.6 points allowed per 100 possessions).

The 47-year-old Shaw is 15 years younger than his predecessor, Karl, and played in the NBA as recently as 2003. He's regarded as a player's coach, but he still demands respect in a locker room if for no other reason than the five NBA championship rings (three from his playing days, two as an assistant coach under Jackson in L.A.) he'll be bringing to the Mile High City.

The Nuggets shocked the hoops world when they fired Karl after his award-winning season, but it's hard to think of a coach more perfectly suited for the position than Brian Shaw. Denver now has a roster that's only going to continue to grow right along with its new coach.