Turns out Los Angeles Lakers All-Star guard Kobe Bryant wasn’t the only one who was a little bit worked up over his team’s coaching search, which eventually ended with Mike Brown taking the reins from a retiring Phil Jackson. Back in May, you might remember, Bryant expressed surprise that Brown had been named head coach and Lakers VP Jim Buss ended up admitting that Bryant should have been more included in the process.
This past weekend, Former Lakers assistant coach Brian Shaw also took exception to how the process went down. Shaw, a candidate for the head coaching job and the preferred choice of Bryant and other Lakers veterans, said in a radio interview transcribed by ESPNLA.com that he found out that Brown had beaten him out by watching television rather than hearing the news directly from the Lakers.
“I wasn’t really told anything,” said Shaw, who had the public backing of players Kobe Bryantand Derek Fisher, among others, to take over for Jackson. “Unfortunately, I found about not getting the job and who was hired for the job on ESPN. I didn’t really talk to anyone for about three weeks after that.”
Shaw has every right to expect the utmost respect from the Lakers. Not only was he popular among the players, he had served the organization for more than a decade and been a part of five title-winning teams. In the interview, Shaw expressed frustration not only with how he found out that he hadn’t landed the job, but also the tone of the search and the lack of communication between himself and upper management.
“At that point, all the speculation and what I’ve heard, the powers making those decisions felt like the team needed a change of culture and a new voice, and head in a new direction,” Shaw said. “I thought that was kind of peculiar because in the 12 years I’d been there, all we had done was gone to the championship seven times and won five championships. I felt like there were 29 other teams in the league that would love to have that kind of culture and that kind of direction. … But I didn’t expect anything to be handed to me.”
“For whatever reason, there was a glitch in communication. … I’ve always had a great relationship and open line of communication with (general manager) Mitch Kupchak so I don’t think it came from there,” Shaw said. “We’ve always been on good terms and are still on good terms. I understand in his position there’s only so much that he can do even. He has people over his head that he has to follow directions. … Definitely there’s some room for improvement in terms of how … people are dealt with.”
Shaw then added that there “wasn’t really much of a relationship” between himself and Jim Buss, who was prominently involved in the coaching search.
Clearly, Shaw has every reason to have sour grapes. While he might not have thought the job would be handed to him, he certainly had to feel like he was the favorite with every possible homecourt advantage. To lose the job of your dreams and the fruits of your labors is a devastating blow; To get blindsided in the process obviously only made that worse.
As we’ve noted before, the NBA coaching ranks are one of the most discreet professions in any industry anywhere. Job security is so low and the carousel moves so quickly that you will rarely hear coaches speak up about anything other than a show of support for their head coach or some minute X-and-Os discussion before, during or after a game. Otherwise, mums the word. For Shaw to be this open, direct and honest in his appraisal of Buss shows that he truly feels he was wronged.
That’s something to worry about, again, for Lakers fans. Good management is not messing up and then apologizing after the fact. Or messing up and hoping no one says anything publicly. Good management is anticipating problems so you have time to prevent them, conducting things by the book and treating those in the industry by the industry’s standards. Clearly, Jim Buss never made things right with Shaw or Shaw would not be airing these grievances publicly.
The stakes here aren’t enormous. We’re just talking about a former assistant coach. The coaching search is complete and a solid candidate was named. But conduct during free agency pursuits, trade talks, contract negotiations and the like is of paramount importance. If Jim Buss left Bryant surprised and Shaw peeved during a coaching search, you can’t help but wonder who will be next to point the finger at him.
The silver lining: Shaw landed on his feet with an associate head coaching position with the Indiana Pacers.