With Kurt Rambis Gone, Brian Shaw Next In Line to Take Over Lakers

Benny BlancoContributor IAugust 10, 2009

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 29:  Assistant coach Brian Shaw of the Los Angeles Lakers reacts while taking on the San Antonio Spurs in Game Five of the Western Conference Finals during the 2008 NBA Playoffs on May 29, 2008 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

And then there was one. 

L.A. Lakers assistant coach Kurt Rambis' departure to the Minnesota Timberwolves clears the way for current assistant Brian Shaw to take over as head coach when Phil Jackson retires at the end of next season.

Shaw is next in line for several reasons.

1) Kobe Bryant respects him.

2) Bryant's first choice, Duke's Mike Krzyzewski, won't take the job.

3) Kobe usually gets what he wants.

Bryant is king when it comes deciding who will take over for Jackson because he has yet to sign an extension. His current contract gives him the ability to opt out next year and leave through free agency, which will scare the Lakers brass into making sure whoever does take the job has Bryant's blessing.  

Most people will remember Shaw from his Lake Show days during the Lakers' run of three championships from 2000 to 2002. He was a key element of those Laker teams, most famous for his alley-oop passes to former L.A. center Shaquille O'Neal, termed the "Shaw-Shaq redemption."

Shaw was never the loudest player on the floor, but he was always one of the smartest. He knew exactly when to throw the ball into O'Neal, when to take the open shot and, most importantly, how to deal with the cocky, young kid who wouldn't interact with the rest of the team.

That kid is now the best player in the game and if the Lakers are smart enough to realize that and want him to remain a Laker, he'll also be picking Jackson's replacement. 

And for those of you who need further proof, look no further than the recent Rambis departure for the head coaching job at Minnesota.  Rambis would never, repeat, never leave the Lakers if he felt he had a chance to take over as head coach next year.

Rambis was and still is the ultimate Laker.  A tough, gritty player who has been groomed for the job for years, even coaching a few games last year while Jackson was dealing with his numerous ailments.  But I believe Rambis never got the backing of Bryant, and that did him in at the end.

At least Rambis was smart enough to read the writing on the wall and cash in on a job somewhere else before being passed over next year for the younger, less-experienced Shaw.

But what Shaw lacks in coaching experience, he more than makes up for in experience with Bryant.  After all, he played basketball with Bryant's father, Joe "Jelly Bean" Bryant in Italy, when Kobe was just 11.  A connection was formed then that has remained strong through the tumultuous Lake Show years to the current rise of Black Mamba.

The only thing standing between Shaw and the Lakers head coaching job next season is another former Laker, who currently coaches the New Orleans Hornets.  Byron Scott was also Kobe's teammate during his rookie season and, more importantly, his mentor.  Oh, by the way, Scott's contract with the Hornets expires at the end of next season.

Like most everything else in Lakerland, there's always drama around the corner and nothing is ever as simple as it seems.