Indiana Pacers associate head coach Brian Shaw won three championships… (Michael Conroy / Associated…)
Brian Shaw wants this to be an easy homecoming. He really does.
He spent 12 years as a player, scout and assistant coach for the Lakers but didn't get the job to replace Phil Jackson. He was upset he wasn't hired, especially after finding out through media reports, not the Lakers, that Mike Brown got the nod.
So Shaw returns Sunday to Staples Center as the associate head coach of the Indiana Pacers and might wonder "what if?" … but only if his mind lets him.
"I don't really like to play that game and look back because if I dwell on that, I'm really cheating the team I'm with now," Shaw said in a phone interview with The Times. "I had no issue at all with who they hired. My only issue at that time was how it was handled. That part of it left a bad taste in the mouth.
"But I got over that quickly and just turned my energy to what I'm trying to do with the Pacers and how I can improve my craft and bring the experiences I've learned and apply them to this team."
Shaw, 45, had the support of practically every Lakers player to replace Jackson. He would have kept the triangle offense. He was incredibly familiar with Kobe Bryant, having been his teammate for four seasons. And he resonated locally, his clutch three-pointers against Portland in Game 7 of the 2000 Western Conference finals buying a lifetime of goodwill with Lakers followers.
By all accounts, Lakers players love Brown. They wonder aloud about the length of his video sessions and shootarounds, nicknaming him "All Day Every Day," but they understand the concept of cramming a new system into so few days of a wildly jammed season.
Shaw will now be on the other side of the scorer's table at Lakers games, sitting closer to Jack Nicholson than Dyan Cannon.
"I don't know what it'll be like," he said. "There's a lot of different guys on the team and most of the coaches are different. I still have a connection with Kobe, [Derek] Fisher and Luke Walton, but other than that it's a lot of new faces."
Shaw won three championships as a Lakers player and earned another two as a member of Jackson's coaching staff from 2005 through last season. Like the rest of the league, the Pacers are busy with so many games in so few nights, but Shaw catches snippets of Lakers games because they're often on national TV.
"When Kobe was on his 40-point spree, I saw that and kind of took notice after he got the first," Shaw said. "I said to myself, 'I'm sure he'll string a few of those together,' which he did. I was looking in the box scores to see how long that would go. Other than that, I haven't really had time to see them because of the condensed schedule."
Shaw likes the feel of the Pacers, off to a surprising 10-4 start. They are young and feisty and have some talent.
"The one pleasant thing is they play hard every single night," Shaw said. "That's really all a coach can ask. We're trying to establish a culture with this team — togetherness, smash-mouth basketball. The team is buying in. We like to try to wear teams down."
He shares his past experiences with the Pacers, sometimes mentioning Bryant's name.
"He comes in every day at 6 a.m., gets his therapy, his treatment, gets his shooting and then he goes to practice," Shaw said. "I'll ask [players], 'Do you want to be good, do you want to be great or do you just want to be mediocre? I've seen the guy who is the best and who works the hardest. I've seen it every day for the last 12 years.'"
Shaw loves what he's doing, rarely peering into the past, except for Sunday.
"I really at this point have moved on," he said. "I've been on seven different teams and had to go back to places I just left, but this will be a little different."