After seeing his franchise lose 19 of 21 games, Denver Nuggets general manager Tim Connelly fired Brian Shaw on Tuesday. Shaw was hired in 2013 with a reputation as one of the top assistant coaches in the league, someone who got the most out of his players. Less than two full seasons later, however, he’s out of a job.
What the heck happened?
“Well, a few things,” CBS Sports NBA insider Ken Berger said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “I think it started with the roster in the very beginning not really being suitable for his style and his philosophy. That was a mismatch. They tried to make some moves (but) weren’t able to. That’s a team – with the roster they have – (that needs) to play fast and shoot 3s. And Brian Shaw is more of a triangle, half-court guy and a defensive guy. That was a mismatch from the beginning.
“Beyond that, I think it just became untenable,” Berger continued. “It wasn’t so much the losing. It was the lack of effort and the lack of discipline – and that’s always a recipe for a disaster for a head coach. I think it’s fair to lay some of that blame at Brian Shaw’s feet. He was a very well-regarded assistant in both L.A. with the Lakers and with the Pacers. He didn’t represent himself well in this job, and there were a lot of circumstances that were unfair to him. You’re dealing with professional athletes and you think you would get full effort all the time, and he just wasn’t able to do that for whatever reason.”
Unfortunately for Shaw, this experience could significantly limit his chances of landing another head-coaching gig in the NBA.
“Yeah, certainly whenever you’re a head coach and you have a circumstance like this, it’s a mark on your resume,” Berger said. “But I could see him easily joining Phil (Jackson) and the Knicks as an assistant with Derek Fisher. I think he would be an asset to Derek on the bench there with his knowledge of the triangle. One of the things he was known for (as an assistant) was his ability to really connect with players. He obviously wasn’t able to connect with the players he was coaching in Denver, but I don’t think that means he can’t ever do it again. So I could see him going back in an assistant role and then from there (seeing) what opportunities come forward after that.”
For what it’s worth, Indiana forward David West spoke up for his former assistant coach, saying that Shaw’s firing was wrong and that an immature roster was the real reason for the Nuggets’ poor play.
“There’s no question about (the immature roster),” Berger said. “(West is) right about that. The Nuggets were a team that had (developed a poor reputation). When you’re playing them in your building, especially on a weekend matinee, you mark down that win in the win column because you know they’re going to be out to all hours (the night before the game). That’s just an unprofessional way to conduct yourself as an NBA player. That was a problem on that team.”
Elsewhere in the Western Conference, Golden State (46-12) has suddenly lost three of its last six games – all against the Eastern Conference, all on the road. Fortunately for the Warriors, they still lead the Grizzlies (42-17) by four-and-a-half games for the top seed in the West. Unfortunately for the Warriors, they’re still looking at a potential first-round playoff matchup with Oklahoma City.
Berger, however, doesn’t think seeding is going to matter all that much in the West.
“As good as Golden State has been, Memphis is kind of nipping at their heels,” he said. “Houston has played better. But one through eight, I don’t care who you are. I don’t want to play any of those teams. I don’t care where they’re seeded.”