Kobe Bryant and most Lakers fans may not have liked it, but Brian Shaw never really stood a chance to become the Lakers next head coach. Shaw was qualified, and a top Lakers assistant, but his candidacy was doomed because he implied more of the same and Jim Buss wanted to put his stamp on the organization. Mike Brown was a radical departure, that’s what the powers that be wanted.
It’s not a bad thing — Mike Brown can coach. This team can win with him.
However, the vibe around the change and how it all went down should make Lakers fans nervous about the future.
Shaw said that even within the Lakers organization he needed to distance himself from Jackson — the guy who won the franchise five rings — to have a better chance to get the job. It’s old issues and family dynamics that could hurt the franchise in the future. That was the core of Shaw’s message when he opened up to Sports Illustrated’s Ian Thompson
“Phil let me know going into the interview [with the Lakers] for me to almost disassociate myself from him, that anything that I said about him or the triangle system would hurt me because of his lack of relationship with Jimmy Buss,” Shaw said. “So when I did interview, that was the point that I tried to make about the fact that I had played for Phil only my last four years, and that I played for all of these other coaches.”
“There were some things that were said that I won’t really get into,” Shaw said. “It was kind of bashing Phil Jackson, that I just refused to just sit and listen to. And that’s when I said, ‘Hey, I love Phil Jackson. I appreciate everything that we’ve all been able to accomplish under him. We’ve all prospered since he’s been the coach here….
“It was more from Jimmy Buss just doubting some of the decisions he made in terms of how he was handling and running the team and coaching the team on the sidelines, and sitting down instead of getting up. People look at coaches and want them to pace up and down the sidelines and bark instructions to the guys. That’s not Phil’s demeanor. That was viewed as a negative in my estimation — but it won him five championships with the Lakers and six with the Bulls, and that was his coaching style when he won, so why was that not acceptable now?”
How much Jackson yelled at the officials was a concern? Really?
Understand the dynamic at play here. The first time Phil Jackson left the Lakers, it was Jim Buss who had pushed hard for Rudy Tomjanovich to take over as coach. That backfired and was a disaster that left Frank Hamblen — a smart man who was not suited for the big chair — in charge. Combine that with the unpopular trade of Shaquille O’Neal before that season and you pissed off Lakers season ticket holders. Really pissed off. The Lakers held a season ticket holders meeting during that season and sent Mitch Kupchak out as the sacrificial lamb, when neither the Shaq trade nor the Rudy T. hire were his call.
Then Jeanie Buss — the business smart daughter of Jerry who is well respected by other NBA owners because she gets it — rides to the rescue bringing back boyfriend Phil Jackson. It was an expensive pill but bringing him back calmed season ticket holders down. It was worth the money. Eventually, it led to two more rings.
But he was not Jim Buss’ guy. So when it came time to make a change Jim put his stamp on the organization. Not only is Jackson gone, Shaw never had a chance. But it goes deeper than that — 25-year Laker and assistant GM Ronnie Lester is gone. Rudy Garciduenas, the equipment manager since the Showtime era, is gone. Scouts are gone. Anyone considered a Jackson guy is gone.
Loyalty and tradition seemed to be gone, too. That’s what should make Lakers fans nervous. The disrespect of all things Phil Jackson — a guy who won the franchise five rings and made the Buss family much more rich — should make Lakers fans nervous.
I’m undecided on Jim Buss right now. The son of longtime owner Jerry Buss he has made some good calls we know of. For example, pushing to draft Andrew Bynum. But there are other questions now if the young Buss can be the steady hand that his father was. Jerry Buss was good at letting the basketball people make most of the basketball decisions and only stepping in on the biggest issues. Can Jim do that?
Hard to say, but if the franchise is going to continue it’s run of success, it comes down to Buss making mature decisions. And after the Shaw incident, Lakers fans should be a little nervous wondering if that will happen.