Denver dysfunction dooms Shaw

Brian Shaw's reputation as a players' coach didn't translate in Denver. AP Photo/Paul Sancya

Any time a successful team changes head coaches, it's taking a risk. That gamble has paid off for the Golden State Warriors and Memphis Grizzlies, the top two teams in the Western Conference, who have both reached new heights under different coaches than the ones who got them into the playoffs. The Denver Nuggets, who fired head coach Brian Shaw on Tuesday, represent the opposite side of that coin.

Under former head coach George Karl, Denver reached the playoffs nine consecutive times, culminating in a 57-win campaign in 2012-13. But when that postseason run ended in the opening round, like seven of the eight before it, the Nuggets decided to fire the Coach of the Year with a season left on his contract. Since then, Denver has found an easy way to avoid first-round exits: not making the playoffs at all. The Nuggets' 56 total wins over nearly two seasons under Shaw couldn't quite match their 2012-13 total.

Denver's downturn in fortunes certainly wasn't entirely Shaw's fault, but the team's descent from mediocrity to noncompetitive since the All-Star break falls at his feet. So Shaw lost his job, and now the drifting Nuggets must set a new course forward.