DENVER — In his playing days, Brian Shaw was more of a role player, taking a back seat to the bigger names on the court.
His coaching career sort of had a similar feel: A respected basketball mind, only no one would give him a shot to lead a team.
That is, until now. After a dozen interviews over the years that all ended the same way — teams going in a different direction — the longtime assistant finally landed his first head coaching job with the Denver Nuggets.
“At times, it got frustrating,” Shaw said at his introductory news conference on Tuesday. “At the same time, I just looked at it as it allowed me more time to learn and to get better.
“This team is full of young players with a lot of promise and it will be my job to get them to play to their full potential.”
Shaw steps in for George Karl, the NBA Coach of the Year who was ousted after the team won a franchise-record 57 games, only to be bounced from the first round of the playoffs for the fourth straight season.
The 47-year-old Shaw isn’t trying to follow in the footsteps of Karl.
And he’s not trying to be like his mentor, Phil Jackson, either, a name that might have actually hindered him over the years, instead of helped.
See, teams were leery of Shaw. Sure, he captured three championships as a player with the Los Angeles Lakers and two more titles as an assistant under Jackson, but the intricate triangle offense that Jackson taught scared off some organizations.
“I jokingly said to (Jackson), ‘Coach, I thought playing for you and working for you would be my biggest asset. Actually, it’s hurt me the most,”’ Shaw said. “I’ve never gone into an interview and said, ‘I only believe in the triangle and this is the system I’m going to run.’ But I understand everyone’s thought process because it’s such a unique system.”