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T.J. SIMERS

Brian Shaw just might be the right man for the Lakers' job

It would be a risk to turn the team over to an untested head coach, but retreads such as Rick Adelman and Jeff Van Gundy aren't any sure things either.

May 21, 2011|T.J. Simers
  • Lakers assistant coach Brian Shaw talks strategy with forward Ron Artest during the first half of a game against the Utah Jazz at EnergySolutions Arena last season.
Lakers assistant coach Brian Shaw talks strategy with forward Ron Artest… (Russ Isabella / US Presswire )

I begin with a contradiction.

I don't think an inexperienced New Yorker like Don Mattingly was the correct choice to be the Dodgers' manager. Still don't.

But I'm beginning to think the risk might be one the Lakers should seriously consider when evaluating a very raw Brian Shaw.

Here's the problem. I understand why the Lakers' brass might be looking at short-term answers with retreads like Rick Adelman, Mike Dunleavy and Jeff Van Gundy.

The Lakers still have expensive three-year deals on the books with Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Pau Gasol and Steve Blake; two-year deals remaining with Luke Walton and Derek Fisher. Not much financial room for a makeover.

That puts it on a coach to squeeze what he can out of Bryant, who is closer to the end than the beginning, while asking more from Bryant's supporting cast.

Lamar Odom has two years remaining, but the second year of his contract makes him more attractive as trade bait. Andrew Bynum has one season remaining, the team's option to keep him a second season for more than $16 million.

That makes Odom and Bynum the best candidates to be traded, a veteran coach charged with introducing a new offense and maybe new players as well.

The names of retreads mentioned to replace Jackson, though, do not offer much excitement or assurances of success.

Rudy Tomjanovich was just such a veteran, one who had actually won a pair of NBA titles, in contrast to the veteran list the Lakers are said to be assembling.

He lasted 41 games, the reason stated for his abrupt departure never made clear. Those close to the situation, though, still talk about the times Rudy T. would draw a play on a board during timeouts only to have Bryant wipe it away and start drawing up his own.

Rudy T. never did get a handle on Kobe, which made him no different than Phil Jackson, who chose to allow Kobe to do as he pleased most of the time.

The next coach is going to have it worse. Kobe is slipping, and whether it is only slightly or much more, he is never going to be the same.

Kobe will be the last to admit as much. Take a look around sports and as soon as a great player begins to lose it, it seldom goes well. A great player is convinced he can overcome anything, including time.

There will be clashes between star player and new coach.

Bryant is also still owed $83 million, including a whopping $30.5 million in 2013-14 — the final year of his deal.

So who handles that best?

Probably not Kobe, so that leaves the new coach. Does Adelman at age 65, and then 66 and 67, have such energy? Jackson ran low at 65 and worried the gap in age between player and coach was hurting his effectiveness.

Does Dunleavy, who seems more intent on running the teams he coaches as personnel director, have what it takes? Check with Corey Maggette and Baron Davis.

How about Van Gundy, who is known for his emphasis on defense? Do defense and Showtime go well together? How would a micro-managing Van Gundy handle a superstar doing his own thing?

With Shaw, we already know. He has been around Bryant since Bryant was a kid, and by all accounts from those close to the Lakers, only Shaw and Fisher have what it takes to deal with Bryant's maniacal desire to win at all costs.

Fisher talks to the whole team with the intent of the message hitting Bryant. Shaw openly challenges Bryant — a Bryant truism is the people he respects the most are the ones who don't back down to him.

It's impossible to fathom Bryant playing harder, but he has solid history with Shaw. That would give him the motivation late in his career to get Shaw started.

Shaw has so much to learn, as anyone does getting their big break. At times he sounds as if he has all the answers, but he's working for an organization that really does — as evidenced by the trophies stockpiled.

And how does anyone make the case he cannot overcome inexperience. A phone call from the coroner's office 18 years ago told him both his parents and 24-year-old sister were dead in a car crash.

He took his sister's 11-month-old daughter and raised her. Next week, the girl will graduate from high school before going on to college. Obviously, he has already shown an ability to triumph.

A man of deep conviction, he talks to his daughter about the cowards it makes in all of us, texting rather than talking to people face-to-face. Shake his 12-year-old son's hand, and it's the firm, respectful greeting passed on from father to son.

Here 18 years later, he's still talking about the full life his parents lived, and how they still mean so much to him. He's also talking about the work he'd like to do in the L.A. community, work he has been doing for years back in Oakland where he grew up.

He's long-winded, all right, and likes fishing — I presume because the fish have no choice but to listen to him.

And he knows some folks think he's not ready or this. He was also sixth man on his high school basketball team, and he calls his college career nothing special before he bounced around the NBA. So go ahead and tell him he's not ready to be a head coach.

Jim Buss is going to hear the same thing; he's not ready to be owner. He already has Tomjanovich on his resume, but how quickly would it be forgotten if he hires the next great young coach?

Maybe there's a better, maybe even more experienced young coach out there ready to take the next step. Hire him.

But if not, Shaw offers more promise than any other name mentioned so far.

t.j.simers@latimes.com

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