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If Phil Jackson steps down, the Lakers need to go with Brian Shaw

Jun 25, 2010, 2:08 PM EST

shaw_coach.jpgFor the next week, Lakers fans are heading to their local churches and lighting candles with a prayer that Phil Jackson decides to stay on to coach the Lakers. Fans are nervous, they are doing anything they can — meditating on it, offering rum to Jobu, burning incense to please the gods. There are PETA members in LA that would sacrifice a goat or two if they thought it would help. They are that serious.

Jackson is everyone’s option number one — including the Lakers front office. They want him back. But what if he decides turning it up to 11 was enough?

Then the Lakers have to choose between Byron Scott and Brian Shaw.

Not exactly those two, although they would be the frontrunners. But Scott and Shaw represent the philosophical crossroads the Lakers would be at. Stay with the current system or blow it up.

On one hand is Scott, representing a dramatic break with the triangle offense. Jerry Buss much preferred the Showtime era style of play to the triangle. Hey, we all did. But there is no arguing with success, and the triangle works. And Buss is too smart to dump Jackson just because the offense isn’t aesthetically pleasing enough. Jackson would have to do something far worse, like sleep with the owner’s daughter… oh, wait, bad example.

Scott would bring some old-school Laker history, a direct tie to the Showtime era. His offenses have been point-guard led (Jason Kidd and Chris Paul). The Lakers would run again. The coach wouldn’t just sit there, he’d stalk the sidelines and yell at the refs giving a cathartic release to the fans that Jackson does not.

There would need to be other changes. Derek Fisher may be the worst point guard in running the break in the Association, the Lakers would need someone else in that role (or, just keep Jordan Farmar and turn him loose).  The role players would need to be less Luke Walton and more Shannon Brown.

And the Lakers fans could hope that inevitable mutiny of the players to Scott — it happened in New Jersey quite publicly and the wave was just about to break public in New Orleans when he was let go — came after this championship window was closed. Scott is not a long-term answer, but the Lakers may not care, because it would be Showtime again. The fun would be back.

But you know what is the most fun? Winning.

And the triangle wins. This Lakers roster wins. And it was built for the triangle.

That brings us to Brian Shaw. The Lakers lead assistant. He represents keeping things largely the same, not trying to make a big philosophical shift in the middle of a championship window. Don’t change horses in the middle of the stream.

Shaw has no head coaching experience and Scott has led a team to two NBA Finals — where Scott’s team lost to the Lakers and the triangle. Shaw can get the players ear because they know him. Kobe trusts him, Kobe has been through the wars of the playoffs with him as a player and coach. Read Phil Jackson’s last book — before Game 5 of the 2004 NBA finals it was Shaw Kobe was calling as his confidant. Kobe trusts him, and if he does the team will.

The Lakers have won two consecutive NBA titles and can win a few more — why would you go with a philosophical change of style right now? Is Shaw more of a risk than changing how you do things, changing on the court systems? Continuity matters? Think it’s a coincidence that two teams that have not changed how they have done things for years — and built to that style of play — were the teams tipping off in Game 7 of the NBA finals?

Shaw is a gamble, but a smart gamble. The Lakers need to be what they are if Jackson leaves, and Shaw is that.

Unless the Lakers are looking for real drama, not just wins.

  1. Anonymous - Jun 25, 2010 at 2:37 PM

    Contrary to popular opinion, Byron Scott is not necessarily a running coach. The Hornets were one of the slowest-paced teams in the league for all the years he coached them.
    I do remember issues with his Xs and Os acumen and his preparation level though. I doubt Kobe Bryant, probably the most obsessively prepared player in the game, will be impressed.

  2. Kevin - Jun 25, 2010 at 2:41 PM

    I actually think the best choice would be Jeff Van Gundy. Shaw’s only strength would be continuity, but JVG would command more respect. Furthermore, I think he’s the kind of savvy coach who would adapt his approach to the team he has rather than trying to remake them to fit his style. He would be an asset to the team defensively and I think he’d probably run an offense that greatly incorporated the triple post, except with greater emphasis on the bigs.
    I know he supposedly doesn’t want to coach next year, but c’mon–what coach in his right mind would turn down the chance to coach a championship team featuring Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol that plays in Los Angeles (including Phil, who will be back).

  3. Dan - Jun 25, 2010 at 3:06 PM

    Shaw would certainly be the right choice if we want any kind of continuity and momentum for a 3-peat.
    Jeff Van Gundy? Whoa there…do you really want to completely blow up the team and staff? Van Gundy has no Lakers ties whatsoever and it’s hard telling the depth of the changes that he would make. At least JVG would try to keep and use DJ Mbenga. For some reason Van Gundy is in love with DJ’s play.
    Anyway, I agree with Helin. I thought the objective was to win, not just look pretty or different in the process.

  4. Opinions - Jun 25, 2010 at 4:44 PM

    Hopefully, Jackson stays. He may be really pissed that the Lakers want to cut his salary in half. Still, even 6 million dollars isn’t chicken feed. Why cut his pay. Moronic. Maybe Buss really doesn’t like Phil dating his daughter. Buss may be unhappy about paying 25 million dollars in penalties for going over the salary cap. Still, what’s more important to an owner and the fans. Buss is still making a profit. Get the championship wins while you can. As far as a replacement goes, who knows. Best to go with a proven winner. Can Brian Shaw win, unknown. Byron Scott is a proven winner. Is he the right one, maybe. Jeff Van Gundy, another proven winner, but if he likes Mbenga something is wrong with him. Showtime running basketball can be just as successful as the triangle. Why not a combination. There may be another coach out there that is just right for the Lakers. Another Bill Sharman, Pat Riley, Phil Jackson. What the Lakers don’t need is another Mike Dunleavy, Del Harris, Kurt Rambis, Randy Pfund, or Rudy Tomjanovich.

  5. Opinions - Jun 25, 2010 at 4:50 PM

    Hopefully, Jackson stays. He may be really pissed that the Lakers want to cut his salary in half. Still, even 6 million dollars isn’t chicken feed. Why cut his pay. Moronic. Maybe Buss really doesn’t like Phil dating his daughter. Buss may be unhappy about paying 25 million dollars in penalties for going over the salary cap. Still, what’s more important to an owner and the fans. Buss is still making a profit. Get the championship wins while you can. As far as a replacement goes, who knows. Best to go with a proven winner. Can Brian Shaw win, unknown. Byron Scott is a proven winner. Is he the right one, maybe. Jeff Van Gundy, another proven winner, but if he likes Mbenga something is wrong with him. Showtime running basketball can be just as successful as the triangle. Why not a combination. There may be another coach out there that is just right for the Lakers. Another Bill Sharman, Pat Riley, Phil Jackson. What the Lakers don’t need is another Mike Dunleavy, Del Harris, Kurt Rambis, Randy Pfund, or Rudy Tomjanovich.

  6. lil' pau - Jun 25, 2010 at 5:19 PM

    Why BShaw and not Jim Cleamons? Also has been alongside Phil forever, more defensive minded, and ‘tougher’ than Shaw, perhaps less easy for the players to discount. Seems like the smartest of the bunch, at least in terms of interviews I’ve seen.

  7. lil' pau - Jun 25, 2010 at 5:20 PM

    Why BShaw and not Jim Cleamons? Also has been alongside Phil forever, more defensive minded, and ‘tougher’ than Shaw, perhaps less easy for the players to discount. Seems like the smartest of the bunch, at least in terms of interviews I’ve seen.

  8. Matt - Jun 25, 2010 at 6:39 PM

    The triangle offense is so difficult to learn, but guys like pau, artest, odom learned it in time, so I just think it would suck just to dump it. It works for the Lakers, yes everyone loved showtime, but the triangle offense has brought us to seven championships, and won us five, including back-to back with the window open for a third, so it only makes sense that we keep it. That means theres only really 3 logical choices if Phil doesent return. We can go for Scott, who is respected by many, including Kobe. Hes younger, he’ll stay, and it means something when Shaq has openly said he wants him to coach the cavs. Shaq just doesnt say that. 2. Jim Cleamons, and 3. don’t think Rambis wont leave minnesota, hes best friends with Mitch, and his wife his best friends with Jeanie buss. All these coaches run the triangle. Personally id be fine with anyone of them, I respect BShaw more

  9. raj - Jun 25, 2010 at 9:27 PM

    Shaw is considered to be a rising star among NBA coaches. He is also Phil’s preference to succeed as head coach for a reason. It’s probably not too wise for know-nothingers to doubt the experts in the profession. Clearly, Shaw would be a solid choice. At this point, the triangle offense isn’t leaving. The players have come to higher level of understanding of the game through this offensive system. I don’t think they themselves would welcome a shift away from the triangle. So whoever takes over, even if it’s someone from outside, they’re going to have to keep the current system in place and perhaps try to incorporate some other stuff as well. That won’t be a problem. It isn’t like Phil Jackson is the only guy who can teach the triangle offense. His assistants probably do more of that, in terms of teaching the intricacies of play within the triangle, than he does anyway. If someone like Scott comes in, I can’t see Mitch doing it without some agreement between them that certain current staff members would also be carried over. I would think a guy like Shaw would probably stay on unless he took a head coaching job somewhere else. I would think Cleamons would also stay on. And Hamblem didn’t leave the last time Phil retired and, assuming he still wanted to hang around, might also stay on board. So I don’t see a Scott hiring representing a massive shift in style of offense. I think the defense might improve in its consistency unless Scott. But the biggest shift would be going from someone who lets his players learn to someone who forces the issue more, and that could turn into a problem at some point. Cleamons had his time as a head coach and didn’t seem like head coach material. I think he’s best suited to be an assistant like Hamblem. My preference if Phil leaves would probably be Shaw at head coach. But I’d also love to see him bring Scott aboard as an assistant whose main focus was coaching the defense, where I think his more hard-edged style is best suited at this point. I don’t know if Scott would take that on. But if he really wants to be part of the Laker organization again, I think it would be a damn good resolution.

  10. Eric of Melbourne - Jun 25, 2010 at 10:16 PM

    Can’t the Lakers do “Showtime” at every opportunity, and “Triangle” when Showtime has been stopped?
    There was one year in particular when the Lakers with Magic Johnson just “Showtimed” all opposition right off the floor! But defenses adjusted, and they were never quite so dominant after that.
    So how about “Show Triangle”?

  11. Coachee Lee - Jun 25, 2010 at 10:48 PM

    I don’t see B Shaw being a coach… is he even respected by the players?

  12. NimRod - Jun 25, 2010 at 11:03 PM

    Jeff Van Gundy??? You must be JVG…

  13. pfsuperchang - Jun 26, 2010 at 12:06 AM

    JVG? are you smoking?

  14. Omnius - Jun 26, 2010 at 11:28 AM

    I hope that Phil goes one more season, still hope as he’s mulling over his options and hopefully Jeanie Buss works him over good to stay one more year. Byron Scott would be interesting as a replacement for Phil as he does have coaching experience, but he may not be the right fit for this Triangle team. Brian Shaw has been around the Laker organization for a long time and was part of Phil’s first three titles with the Lakers. If anyone can pick up from where Phil left off it would probably be Brian Shaw. Fisher proved once again that he’s still a great point gaurd even if he is slower now, still need a great young point guard to start and have Fisher come off the bench with Odom. I’d like to see the Lakers snatch Deron Williams from Utah and ditch Farmar who just hasn’t shown he’s capable of taking care of the ball.

  15. Anonymous - Jun 26, 2010 at 12:35 PM

    Being a black man, I hate to say this, but I agree with you about Van Gundy should be the coach if Jackson retires.

  16. mark l - Jun 26, 2010 at 12:58 PM

    Enough is enough… I should coach the Lakers. I’ve been a Lakers fan for the past twenty years I know their style of playing from showtime with magic to phil’s triangle combined together is an octagon offense. Using the referee as your six man in the court. Also I would get rid of Benga and Josh Powell they don’t FIT for the Lakers. Just like Johnny Cochran says ” if it doesn’t FIT you must acquit” and they did “unfortunately”

  17. alets - Jun 26, 2010 at 1:27 PM

    Phil Jackson is overrated. Anyone can win with jordan and pippen. Or with Kobe and Shaq. Or with Kobe and Gasol.
    -Ruben

  18. Jeter Terence - Jun 26, 2010 at 5:27 PM

    If Phil Jax coaches LBJ, he will surely give LBJ rings that he longs for. Doug Collins coached MJ and Pippen but did not win championships for the Bulls. Get the drift?
    Red, is that you?

  19. rick92886 - Jun 26, 2010 at 7:33 PM

    JVG is a Laker hater. All him commentary this year was negative.

  20. Anonymous - Jun 26, 2010 at 8:55 PM

    Well the guy was an on-court/off-court leader for them, winning three titles in the process… as a player he was a leader who commanded their respect, so i don’t see how they couldn’t respect him now. Moreover, if players didn’t respect him, I don’t think he’d be Phil’s preference. If you’ve watched him over the years and taken notice of how egomaniacs like Shaq and Kobe responded to him, it seems pretty clear that wherever he ends up, players will love playing for him, they’ll trust him, and they’ll want to win for him.

  21. Anonymous - Jun 26, 2010 at 9:01 PM

    yeah, anyone can win with them except for the coaches they had before phil was hired

  22. alets - Jun 27, 2010 at 12:48 AM

    With all respect, your response is based on too many assumptions and is pure speculation. Who is to say that the coaches prior to Phil would not have won the championship the year Phil took over? I’ll give Phil credit for recognizing when a team is ripe for championship and then swooping in to take credit. Don’t get me wrong, I like Phil. But isn’t it a true mark of a great coach when he builds a team from scratch and then takes that team to the promise land? Phil has never done that. In fact, when MJ retired, and Phil had an opportunity to build his own team, rather than rising to the top, he came down crashing. The proof is in the pudding.

  23. Ron - Jun 27, 2010 at 2:29 AM

    Rueben, with all due respect, that is a dim-witted response. You are forgetting (or never thought of it in the first place) about the incredible egos these guys possess and a coach’s ability to be able to slot the egos into place…Phil has the talent in order to do that, most coaches wouldn’t know where to begin.
    Give credit where credit is due…Phil is the greatest coach of all time. There is no credible dispute to that.

  24. Ice - Jun 27, 2010 at 3:22 AM

    Brian Shaw is an excellent human being, and has one of the highest basketball IQ’s on the planet. His pedigree speaks for itself. He has the intelligence, the demeanor, the game, and the spirit along with the experience as a player, internationally and at home. He is one of the basketball players from the Oakland area who has been around top basketball minds and leagues all of his life. He has played with the best,and has won at every level. We would be hard pressed to find anyone truly on his level in the aforementioned categories. Therefore the Lakers will be quite fortunate to hire him as the head coach if Jackson leaves. This young man’s coaching trajectory is going straight to the top. First class fellow all the way! Do not sleep on Brian Shaw, he will always be a major factor in the basketball world. Mark these words!

  25. The Dude Abides - Jun 27, 2010 at 2:25 PM

    Hiring Byron Scott to coach the Lakers would be a colossal mistake. His style will be to tell the role players to STFU, stand in the corner, and wait for the ball to be passed to them off the Kobe-Pau high pick and roll. He lost two locker rooms this way after two seasons, and once his team stopped winning, he couldn’t get away with his lax preparation anymore, and management fired him. Why would we want to hire a coach who is known for holding up the team plane on travel days so he can finish his 18 holes of golf?

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