If you missed it, below are selected quotes from our interview Friday afternoon with former Lakers assistant coach Brian Shaw. While he clearly was disappointed by not getting L.A.'s head coaching gig, Shaw seemed just as disappointed he heard the news of Mike Brown's good fortune on ESPN long before anyone in the organization spoke with him personally. Along with the decision not to run Brown's hire past Kobe Bryant (not for his approval, but as a courtesy) and questions about the handling of assistant GM Ronnie Lester and other team personnel, the treatment Shaw describes jibes neatly with the perception the Lakers, and particularly Jim Buss' Lakers, have a communication problem in the front office.
It's difficult to argue the point.
More than anything, though, Shaw's comments again accentuate the general level of nervousness among so many fans. Not necessarily regarding what decisions are made -- hiring Brown over Shaw is a reasonable position -- but of the motivation behind them. Are they based on basketball, or reflecting a desire to make bold choices and put a personal stamp on a team? What happens when Kobe isn't Kobe anymore? Where will the next superstar come from, and is Jim Buss up to the task of maintaining the success of his father? The bar is spectacularly high.
To have so much hand-wringing over a team as good as the Lakers still are seems a little strange, but it reflects the psychological space occupied locally by the team. The Lakers are one of the city's reliably uplifting commodities (sunshine being another), almost always delivering a good-to-championship-level product. Even in more sour moments, people ultimately tend to believe they'll be fine, mostly because Dr. Buss' track record is so good. Now, many worry about the direction of the team (code for "worried about Jim Buss"), and since concern for the Lakers is basically foreign, the anxiety is only heightened. By no means has Jim Buss definitively shown he can't do the job, but he hasn't exactly endeared himself to the fan base, either.
These days, nobody is looking for fresh additions to the ol' worry jar. Shaw, candid for sure but even-handed and still very diplomatic, doesn't oblige.
A partial transcription of his comments is below. For the whole interview, click the module at right.
On disappointment in not getting the Lakers job:
"Initially I was very disappointed. It was something that I had my sights set on. I didn't really feel comfortable talking about [it] leading into this last season, but just tried to do everything I possibly could to put myself in position, and soak up and learn as much as I could from the best coach that's ever coached in any professional sport. I thought that I had done that, and having been in the organization for the past 12 years, thought I positioned myself pretty well. But I also understand the business and the nature of the business.
Things didn't work out that way, so I understand that, so it was time to move on, and that's what I did."
What were you told about why they went another direction?
"I wasn't really told anything. Unfortunately, I found out about not getting the job and who was getting the job on ESPN. I didn't really talk to anyone for about three weeks after that. At that point, just from all the speculation and what I'd heard, it felt like the powers that were making the decisions felt like the team needed a change of culture and a new voice, and to head a new direction. That's what I was told. I thought that was kind of peculiar, because in the 12 years that I had been there, and I know the 11 years that coach Jackson had coached, all we had done was go to the championship seven times, and won five championships. I just 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 there's been a change in power, I guess to say, in terms of who's calling the shots from this point on and that's the direction they wanted to head in. I can accept that ... I didn't expect anything anything to be handed to me."
On questions about a lack of communication from the front office:
"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. 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, and do what they say do. Definitely there's some room for improvement in terms of how people are dealt with or communicated with ... I'm going to be OK. I feel bad for some of the other people who I worked with, and were with the Lakers for a lot longer than I was."
Did you have a good relationship with Jim Buss? What are your thoughts of him as an executive?
"I thought that our relationship was OK. There wasn't much of a relationship, just in terms of the fact that I didn't see him a whole lot. ... On game days, occasionally I'd see him or Dr. Buss, but for the most part, especially over the last couple of years, I didn't really see them as much as in the past. It's not really fair to say if we had a good relationship or not. There wasn't really much of a relationship, just because we weren't around each other a whole lot. ... Obviously he made decisions he wanted to make. I haven't heard from him, personally. I did get a voice mail from Dr. Buss which I appreciated, with his sentiments, and I have spoken with Mitch Kupchak. I have not spoken at all with Jim Buss. The last time I have spoken to him or seen him was when I was interviewed by him, Dr. Buss and Mitch Kupchak shortly after the season was over
That part, I wish I would have kind of heard, for lack of a better term, from out of the horse's mouth exactly where I went wrong, or what the thought process was. That was something that I had to hear [as] hearsay from everybody else. That's the part of it that's tough."
What's the greatest lesson you'll take from Phil Jackson?
"It's patience, and when you coach, you coach what you believe in. Your philosophy, and how you feel about the game."
On complications of being a branch on the Phil Jackson coaching tree:
"Our coaching staff had over 30 championship rings. We, by far, had more success than any staff in the last 12 years that I've been here in L.A. I'm proud of the fact that I was able to play for Phil Jackson, the fact that I was able to coach under him and sit next to him on the bench, and learn and just soak up everything I could from that man. Just to feel like having all that experience and all the success and all those championships, that everybody that was on that staff kind of felt like we were out on the street, with nowhere to go. He's a guy who is not arguably, but is the best, and the winningest, and the most successful coach in the history of professional sports, whose coaching staff it almost seems like we were lepers, and we had the plague, and nobody wanted to touch us. That's hard for me to understand.
You look at Gregg Popovich and his staff, and the guys that have worked for that San Antonio organization, and getting jobs, and they're always at the front of the list and what have you. Then you have Phil Jackson, who has won all that he's won, and his staff has been with him a long time, that don't get the same opportunities, that don't get looked at the same way ...
Just from me going around doing head-coaching interviews, it's almost like I can't even affiliate myself. If I go into an interview with another team, even when I interviewed for the Lakers, talking about Phil Jackson or talking about his triangle offense ... I see the faces of general managers and owners cringe when I bring up his name and his offense, and I don't understand that, but I'm not ashamed of it. I'm proud of the fact that I played for him, and I coached under him, and that I was able to accomplish all of the success and gain all the experience that I was able to gain under him. I'm not going to duck my head or shy away from the fact that I was affiliated with Phil Jackson. That's also the same reason why, or at least a big part of the reason why I'm not still with the Lakers, and neither of the other coaches -- Jim Cleamons and Frank Hamblen -- why we're not there, either."
Do you believe you'll be a head coach one day?
On memories of the Lakers:
"I enjoy all the memories, and I enjoy the experiences that I've had with my fellow teammates and coaching staff, and the rest of the staff that I've worked with the Lakers over the years, and now [going to Indiana] is just a new chapter. ... I was fortunate to be in [the Lakers organization] for the last 12 years. There's no regrets. I don't have any hard feelings towards anyone. I appreciate the sentiment of all the players that supported me."