Meanwhile, surrounded by a few reporters on the fringe of all the activity, Lakers assistant coach Brian Shaw spoke about what is a very odd time of year for some in his line of work. There are typically guys who are still working, yet find themselves in the center of searches for open head jobs, whether by rumor or because they'll actually interview. For Shaw, seen not only as a potential up-and-comer league wide but also a prime candidate to replace Phil Jackson when he finally decides to hang up his whistle (or the Lakers decide they don't want to pay him anymore), the process is a little more unique.
He is, at least in theory, perfectly positioned to land one of the great jobs in sports. The light at the end of the tunnel is visible. On the other hand, it's not guaranteed he'll succeed Jackson, and there's no telling when the position will actually be available. Kurt Rambis didn't know, helping explain why he took the job in Minnesota. If a solid bird-in-the-hand opportunity opens up, how would Shaw handle it?
Click below for his comments.
Q: How important is it just to get the opportunity?
Shaw: The opportunity is great, but I don't think just because there's an opportunity means that it's the right opportunity. I just look at the people in this organization. I don't know how many years Jerry West was the G.M. here and Mitch was his assistant, and I'm sure there were opportunities for him to go elsewhere. But he was patient, and now he's running the show here. I don't see him, or even like Ronnie Lester jumping up to run to, like, a Memphis or one of the younger teams that was looking for some leadership because it's a great situation here.
That's tough. It can be a distraction if you allow it to be. But I think at this point, the teams that haven't filled their positions are waiting for a reason. Obviously there are some coaches that are maybe still going that they're considering or looking at. I'm glad that my name isn't in the mix, particularly right now, because I want to concentrate on our ultimate goal which is winning a championship. Then in a couple weeks, however the chips fall they're going to fall, and they're going to select who they're going to want to select, and at that particular time you can make whatever decision you need to make.
Q: How much does the current climate with coaching impact things? Where if you take the wrong job and if it doesn't work out, you may not get a second opportunity.
Shaw: That's a big part of the thought process as well. I've been fortunate to be in a situation here where there's no need to be in a hurry or to take a bad job or the wrong job even if it avails itself. When you come in every day and you get to learn from Phil Jackson, and when Tex Winter is here, that's one of the greatest joys for me because of the basketball knowledge that I get every day. When Tex and Phil make a connection for me, and they may say Mike Woodson, the system he runs comes from Larry Brown, because he played for Larry Brown when he was the coach of the Clippers. And Larry Brown was connected to this coach coach who was connected to Adolph Rupp, and it goes all the way back. You start to see how the puzzle fits together.
That's something I get to be a part of every day, because Phil has been in the game a long time. Tex, Frank Hamblen, Jim Cleamons- those guys ahve been around a long time. And as the youngest coach on the staff, it's a history lesson for me every day. It's something for me, it's priceless.
Q: Does it puzzle you that there seems to be no rhyme or reason to how people become candidates, and then seem to drop of lists? Who gets and then loses opportunities? A guy is qualified one summer, then apparently not the next?(Note: Cleamons is brought up by the questioner as an example of a guy with great experience, widely respected, but seems not to be part of the conversation for head coaching jobs any longer.)
Shaw: It's a funny business and it's a cold business at the same time. That's why you can't spend all your time getting caught up with that and worrying about that. Jim Cleamons had an opportunity- I don't know if it was a great opportunity- when he was the head coach in Dallas before, adn I don't think anything's ever really come up for him again. So those opportunities are precious when they do avail themselves. It's cyclical who the hot name is at the time, who the guys are behind [the scenes], who's promoting them and putting their name out there, who's buddies with this GM or that GM. That seems to be a lot of what has to do with it.
I don't think anybody on our coaching staff, when it comes down to pedigree, being around winning as players and as coaches, I don't think that there's anybody out there that can rival that. So the opportunity, if it comes it comes, if it doesn't it doesn't. You just have to keep going, and you can't get caught up in it.
Q: We all talk about what Phil's going to do, if he left might succeed him. Internally, with you guys, how much- if any- day-to-day discussion goes on about it?
Shaw: We kind of rib him a little bit when we see stuff come across the ticker when we watch the film or play back of ESPN where they'll have something- they'll say Lakers Executive Vice-President Jeannie Buss says she won't stand in his way if he wants to go to another team. So we kind of joke around a little bit, and say well, what would you do if she did try to stand in your way? But he won't react one way or another. We just do that in fun. If he wants to stay around 10 more years or if he wants to leave after this season, that's his decision to make and then at that particular time the organization will have to make a decision and it's out of our control, anyway.
Q: Is there any way to get a gauge for what they could do? Because it affects you.
Shaw: It does, but I've been on a year-to-year contract for 10 years straight now since I've been here, from a player to coach. I'm accostomed to it. Maybe some of the other coaches might be a little nervous, because whatever amount of years that Phil's had, they've had as well [in terms of contract length]. But I've been year to year, and it kind of keeps you fresh and on your toes, and I think everyone's pretty comfortable, anyway.I don't think that anybody's doing it for money. I played 14 years in the league. Jim Cleamons played a number of years in the league. They've been coaching a long time on teams that have gone deep into the playoffs year in and year out.
So we're doing it for the love of it, and like I said, if the right opportunity avails itself and it works out, than it works out. If it doesn't you've just got to keep on plugging away.
Q: You've wanted to be a head coach, but being the Lakers head coach, is that a big part of your dream?
Shaw: Yeah, I think being the head coach of the Lakers is probably one of, if not the best job in sports, it's in the top three. Maybe manager of the Yankees, coach of the Lakers. I don't know what the other one would be. [Dallas] Cowboys, maybe. So yeah, I thik anybody's in coaching would love to have the opportunity to be the head coach of this team, but I can't choose. I have to be chosen. So all I can do is prepare myself as well as I can and hope that if I'm ever put in that position the people here that are making the decisions feel high enough about me. Or feel enough about me that I can do the job and they're comfortable with making that decision.