Brian Shaw embracing Pacers role
LOS ANGELES -- Indiana Pacers assistant coach Brian Shaw spent the last 12 seasons working for the Los Angeles Lakers -- four as a player, one as a scout and the last seven as an assistant on Phil Jackson's staff. During that period of more than a decade, Shaw made the trip to Staples Center hundreds of times, but Sunday was his first time being in the arena as a visitor.
"It was the first time I had ever been in the other locker room, if you believe it," Shaw said before the Lakers played the Pacers. "Ever. Believe it or not."
Shaw returns to Los Angeles not only as a former Lakers employee, but as a man spurned by his former franchise after being one of the three candidates to interview for the head coaching vacancy after Jackson retired along with current coach Mike Brown and Rick Adelman, who went on to coach the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The 45-year-old Shaw said he has already put his Lakers past behind him and embraces his new role as the associate head coach in Indiana working under Frank Vogel.
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"It started the day that I signed to become a coach with the Pacers. I think it was July 13th, to be exact," Shaw said. "I've never had a problem with Mike Brown, the hiring of Mike Brown or anything like that. My only issue was the way I found out and how that was handled, but I understand the nature of the business. I've been in the business a long time. So, in terms of moving on, the toughest part was packing up the family and the house and finding a school for the kids and all that kind of stuff. Other than that, everything was fine."
Shaw was not informed of Brown's hiring personally by anyone in the Lakers' organization, instead first hearing the news from a reporter.
"When I look back on it, the entire time I was here I was on a year-to-year contract, so, it never really felt like there was a whole lot of security," Shaw said. "It could have happened at any point, so I just kind of kept that in perspective. I understand that when a coach like Phil goes out and a new coach comes in, they want to bring their own people and whatever else, so, like I said, I understand that part of it. In terms of that, it's not that difficult to move on."
Brown downplayed the significance of Shaw coming back with the Pacers after Brown beat him out for the Lakers job.
"No, it's not [weird]," Brown said. "I think it's like that a lot. Guys interview for jobs and they do or don't get it. I've had that happen to me before. To me, it's not weird. I don't know how it is for him."
The two already got the chance to bury the hatchet during the lockout at Tim Grgurich's coaching clinic that they both attended back in September.
"I can't really remember, but I don't think we talked about him getting the job [in Indiana] or me getting the job [in Los Angeles] at all," Brown said. "It was just, 'Hey, how you doing? How's your family doing? Wish you luck.' That kind of thing."
Apparently their conversation did not cover Shaw's thoughts on Kobe Bryant, but Bryant's former coach recognizes the challenge Brown has in assuming leadership over the Lakers' superstar.
"That old adage, 'I guess you can't teach an old dog new tricks,' kind of thing," Shaw said. "He's been in the league 15 or 16 years doing things [one] way, you're not going to change the way that he does things. So, you have to try your best to make the things that he does fit into your system in some kind of way."
Brown has hadn't had the easiest time with the Lakers out of the gates, starting the season with a 10-7 record including a two-game losing streak on a back-to-back in Miami and Orlando coming into the Pacers game.
"I don't know, but I would assume it would be pretty difficult," Shaw said. "Especially because I know some of the strong-minded guys that are still left on the team and they're accustomed to doing things the way they've been doing it. So, any coach that would come in, be it [Brown] or anybody else, would have to face the same issues."
Shaw has not cut his Lakers ties completely. He still keeps in touch with current players like Bryant and even texted with backup forward Luke Walton on Sunday before the game. He also continues to communicate with former Lakers, including Trevor Ariza and Shannon Brown. Jackson also has taken to watching Indiana play during his retirement and "chiming in from time to time" to tell Shaw what he sees.
"Obviously those memories are never going to go anywhere," Shaw said. "But, in terms of just trying to be focused on what I'm doing here with this team, my mentality always is even if I face a teammate or somebody we trade or whatever, my mentality is you're not with us, you're against us. My mentality is the Lakers are just like any other team that we're going to play. We want to beat them until the game is over. When the game is over, we can hug and shake hands and talk, but right now they're an opponent that is standing in our way."
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.