Brian Shaw Grabs the Reins of the Nuggets

June 25, 2012; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Nuggets head coach Brian Shaw speaks during a press conference held at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

What comes to your mind when you think of Brian Shaw?

As Lakers fans, many of us will remember his chemistry with Shaquille O’Neal, especially on alley-oops, dating back to their time as teammates on the Orlando Magic. The “Shaw-Shaq Redemption”, as the tandem came to be known, provided for several highlight reel plays in the 90’s and early 00’s. In a 2007 interview, Shaquille O’Neal actually claimed that Shaw was the teammate that he respected most in his whole career.

Some of us will remember Game 7 of the 2000 Western Conference Finals. The Lakers trailed the Portland Trail Blazers by 16 points late in the third quarter, a deficit so large that it had never been overcome in an NBA Game 7 with that little time remaining. Brian Shaw hit three 3-pointers down the stretch, the final one tying the game up with 4 minutes left to play. How big an impact did Shaw have on the historic comeback? He had a +/- of +22 in less than 17 minutes of the bench that game. The Lakers went on to win the game and over the next two weeks defeated the Indiana Pacers in the NBA Finals, the first championship of Brian Shaw’s (as well as the first of Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal) career.

And many others of us, particularly the younger crowd of Lakers fans such as myself, will remember Brian Shaw as the assistant coach for the Lakers for six seasons, acting as an apprentice to one of the greatest coaches of all-time, Phil Jackson. As a staple on the sidelines next to Jackson, Shaw was praised for his ability to relate with players and was able to motivate them to work harder than anyone else. He was said to be the one that brought the “Kobe out of Kobe”, pushing Kobe Bryant harder than anyone else ever had. Andrew Bynum also was impacted by Brian Shaw. His work ethic improved twofold over the years largely due to Shaw pressuring him to take the next steps to become an NBA star. Work on the post game. Get in the gym. Study the opposing team’s offensive schemes. All of it could be attributed to Brian Shaw who wasn’t well-known by the common fan but was among the most respected assistant coaches around the lead based largely on his ability to get in the heads of players, push their buttons, and make them work harder than anyone else.

Later on, as a assistant on the Indiana Pacers, Brian Shaw was able to motivate Paul George and Lance Stephenson, two young guards with endless potential. He used Kobe Bryant to do it, too. In an article by the Denver Post, Shaw was quoted as saying that he used to tell George and Stephenson when they’d slack off or cut corners that “there’s a guy on the coast who’s one of the best to ever play the game, and he doesn’t cut corners”, referring to his former teammate Kobe Bryant. He’s renowned for using these tactics to develop players and open their eyes to see the players they can aspire to be.

But now the Lakers need to let go of the past. They have to deal with Shaw’s coaching four times a season. Shaw has his hands on the reins of a franchise that won 57 games next season. The Nuggets have all sorts of young pieces in place in the Mile High City. Ty Lawson, Danilo Gallinari, Kenneth Faried, JaVale McGee, Kosta Koufos and Evan Fournier. Perhaps Brian Shaw can work his magic on these guys and develop one of them into a superstar as well.

I’m glad for Shaw that he has this opportunity. He was always just one of the pieces, not in the spotlight. He was a role player and an assistant coach. But now he’s the captain of the ship. Best of luck to you, Brian Shaw. (except against the Lakers)

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