By now we’ve all heard the reports bubbling up from all over the internet concerning Phil Jackson’s future. The 64-year-old head coach has said he is “leaning towards retiring” but hasn’t made up his mind just yet.
If Jackson does, in fact, decide to retire, his replacement is already on the Lakers bench. Assistant coach Brian Shaw will take the reins whenever Jackson is no longer the head man in Laker Land. Bank on it.
Shaw played his final four seasons for the Lakers before retiring and taking a job as a Bay Area scout for the franchise in 2003. And for the last six year (starting with the 2004-05 season), Shaw has been an assistant coach for the team, essentially acting as Jackson’s understudy.
If you talk to anyone close to the team you’ll be told that Shaw was rumored to be Jackson’s successor as early as three years ago. Apparently the 44-year-old former guard has an incredible basketball mind and will be a head coach in the NBA sooner or later. Shaw would obviously love for that opportunity to come with the Lakers.
There’s a reason Shaw’s name hasn’t popped up for serious consideration elsewhere: He knows Jackson will be done soon and he knows the Lakers job will be his when the Zen Master walks away.
Longtime Lakers assistant coach Kurt Rambis probably thought the job was going to be his for years. Obviously he saw the writing on the wall concerning Shaw and took the head coaching job with the Minnesota Timberwolves following the 2008-09 season.
People within the Lakers organization are extremely high on Shaw and so are the players. While Byron Scott’s name gets thrown around a lot concerning the team’s potential coaching vacancy, don’t believe the hype. Shaw would keep continuity in Laker Land and that’s as important as anything when you’ve got a championship team returning.
Kobe Bryant has said he wants Phil to be back. Not a big surprise there. But Bryant, Pau Gasol and co. know Shaw well.
Shaw won three NBA titles with the Lakers (2000, 2001, 2002) and has been an integral part of the coaching staff during the past two title runs. So the guy has five rings. That means he knows championship basketball and brings that credibility to the table.
One important factor to remember is that Shaw has only been an assistant under Phil Jackson. That means that Jackson has molded him as a coach. Therefore you would have to assume the Zen Master would be on board with Shaw’s hiring.
If Jackson does indeed retire, you’d have to assume that he won’t go away completely. He’ll still have some sort of attachment to the Lakers organization and will still be in touch with his former players and assistants. Obviously having them all in the same place and on the same page would be a big plus for the franchise.
So if Jackson does retire, Brian Shaw will be the Lakers head coach next year.