June 20, 2011
It's been an odd year for Los Angeles Lakers assistant Brian Shaw. After L.A. won the championship last season, Shaw declined to be considered for several head-coaching jobs because he was set to be the next coach of the Lakers as soon as Phil Jackson retired. With the franchise coming off three consecutive Finals appearances, two consecutive championships, and looking to challenge in 2010-11, as well, it was a no-brainer decision. No smart coach would go to the decimated Cavaliers when a job running the Lakers was right around the corner.
A year later, Shaw finds himself in a very different situation. After the Lakers' ignominious end in this year's playoffs against the Mavericks, Mitch Kupchak, Jim Buss and Co. felt the team needed a sharp change of direction and elected to bring in Mike Brown as head coach instead of promoting from within. Shaw is now a man without a clear home, lacking his previous status as a hot assistant but also without a clear career path with the Lakers.
Brian Shaw will interview with Frank Vogel and Larry Bird this week for the Pacers lead assistant coach position, according to a source.
In a basic sense, this would be a lateral move for Shaw, although the drop from the Lakers to the Pacers makes it seem like a bit of a demotion. However, in the greater context of his career, it's the right move. With Brown now in Los Angeles, Shaw was likely to take on a less significant role on the bench, if he were even to stay at all. With Indiana, he has a chance to play a huge role in the making of a team that looks to improve significantly in its first full season under Vogel.
It remains to be seen if Shaw will end up with the Pacers. Either way, though, the path of his career over the past year stands as a reminder that the idea of a coach-in-waiting, or really any assumption about who will run a team in the future, is fundamentally silly when the fortunes of a team can change in a matter of weeks. A few months ago, the Lakers looked like West favorites and a championship contender. A surprising sweep at the hands of the Mavs changed all that.
That's why Shaw can't look at his change in status as a cruel twist of fate. It's just the way things work in his chosen profession.