As Brian Shaw grew into his role as an assistant coach on the Los Angeles Lakers' bench these last several years, there was real grooming being done. Between Shaw and Kurt Rambis, it was never clear who exactly the heir to Phil Jackson's seat really was. But, because Jackson was seen as a kingmaker and both were seen as lifelong Lakers, we assumed it was one of them.
Rambis fled in 2009 to take over the Minnesota Timberwolves, a disaster of a franchise. Shaw certainly got his name out there as well, not content to assume he'd be Jackson's successor. And in the end, he wasn't, as the Lakers have hired Mike Brown to be their next coach.
What does a dismissed heir do? What's next for Brian Shaw?
Well, he could very well end up as the head coach of the Golden State Warriors or Indiana Pacers. The Warriors are an intriguing match; Brown was considered the top candidate there before the Lakers Death Star beamed him down to Los Angeles. Lawrence Frank, Dwane Casey and Shaw would appear to be Golden State's frontrunners at this point. The Pacers are also sniffing around, as Frank Vogel hasn't had "interim" knocked off of his business card. Shaw could jump to the top of the list there.
If not? There can't possibly be a scenario in which Shaw remains with the Lakers, not after this wait and this snub by Jim Buss, who has apparently taken over franchise leadership in full. If Shaw doesn't become a head coach this offseason, he immediately becomes the most sought-after free agent assistant coach in the nation. Let's face it: assistant coaches don't earn nearly what head coaches do. Brown will make $18.25 million over four years. Shaw hasn't been drawing anything remotely close to that. He needs to work, not just to keep his pockets green but to keep his name and face in front of teams that will be looking for coaches in coming years.
And the teams? They'll line up to hire Shaw as a top assistant, just as they did for Tom Thibodeau after he left the Rockets when Jeff Van Gundy was fired in Houston. Thibodeau parlayed three seasons with the Boston Celtics into a full-time (and Coach of the Year-winning) job with the Chicago Bulls.
Frank is a candidate a year removed from watching the Nets implode under his watch. Where's he? Top assistant for the Celtics. Shaw couldn't replace Frank in Boston -- the optics are too weird -- but there are a number of teams that could use an offensive-minded assistant. The Atlanta Hawks, New Orleans Hornets, Milwaukee Bucks and Sacramento Kings all spring to mind. (Of course, whether the incumbent coaches at those teams would feel comfortable with such an arrangement is another thing entirely.) Should the Rockets hire Kevin McHale, as they are rumored to do, Shaw could be a great offensive coordinator there.
Whatever happens, know that Shaw will get his chance, just as Rambis and Thibodeau did, just as once, back in 2005, Mike Brown himself did. And for Shaw, I imagine there will be no greater joy than proving to himself, the Buss family and the world that he can be a success with the Lakers, just as the Lakers aim to be a success with Shaw.