Brian Shaw watched with amazement as Mark Jackson (Golden State) and Jason Kidd (Brooklyn) were hired with no coaching experience and Jacque Vaughn was tabbed by Orlando over him with much less experience as an assistant.
So, you can imagine the relief he felt when he was named coach of the Denver Nuggets Monday night, ending a 10-year mission.
“I’m so appreciative for the opportunity to be able to lead this team and for the faith that [Nuggets team president] Josh Kroenke and [general manager] Tim Connelly have put in me,” Shaw told ESPN Los Angeles. “It’s been a long time coming. I’ve been prepared by the best of the best for a long time. I’m just really looking forward to it.”
Shaw will replace George Karl, the NBA’s reigning Coach of the Year, who led the Nuggets to a 57-win regular season, but was fired following Denver’s opening-round elimination in the playoffs.
“I look at the positive things that they did, the things they did well under George Karl, and try to continue to build on those,” Shaw said. “And in some of the areas where they could use improvement, try to improve in those areas. I want to put my own spin on things, push the right buttons and find the right combinations.”
The Denver Post reported earlier Monday that the Nuggets agreed to hire Shaw, one of the more coveted coaching candidates this offseason.
Citing a league source, the Post reported that the Nuggets chose Shaw over former Memphis Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins, who was Denver’s other top candidate.
Shaw, 47, has never held a head-coaching position in the NBA. After six seasons as an assistant to Phil Jackson with the Los Angeles Lakers, Shaw spent the past two seasons as an associate head coach with the Indiana Pacers.
Since leaving Jackson’s staff, Shaw has interviewed with the Lakers, Magic, Nets and Los Angels Clippers. He’d been considered the front-runner for both the Nets and Clippers jobs this season, only to have a flashier candidate–Jason Kidd in Brooklyn and Doc Rivers in Los Angeles–overtake him, and the surprise candidate in Vaughn.
“There’s no hard feelings,” Shaw said. “Situations just don’t work out. You just have to look at it and say it wasn’t my time, or it wasn’t the right situation. I don’t have any hard feelings, I learned lessons along the way. I’m a pretty patient person by nature anyway, so although it did test my patience at times, it turned out the way it [was] supposed to be and I’m happy to be in Denver. I’m just looking forward to getting started.”
Shaw spent the final four seasons of his 14-year playing career as a member of Jackson’s Lakers, helping Los Angeles win three consecutive NBA titles beginning in 2000. He also was an assistant under Jackson on the Lakers’ championship teams in 2008-09 and 2009-10.
Shaw told the website that he remains in contact with Jackson.
“We talk on a regular basis, and I always value his advice,” Shaw said. “There have been some situations over the years that he kind of warned against, and there have been other situations where he weighed in and said this would be a good situation.
“But the main thing was just, ‘Be true to who you are and trust your instincts.’ As a player for him and a coach for him, that was something he always said to me. I took that to heart. It’s nice to be able to check in with someone like him all the time and get their advice.”