Coach’s Notebook: Brian Shaw
L.A.'s coaches have every decade covered.
Tex Winter began his illustrious career in the 1940s. Phil Jackson was drafted in 1967. Frank Hamblin became an assistant in 1969, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was the Rookie of the Year in 1970 and Jim Cleamons a Lakers' rookie guard in 1971. Kurt Rambis came into the league in 1981, while Craig Hodges entered in 1983. Then there's L.A.'s youngest coach, Brian Shaw, a rookie in 1988 who finished his playing career in 2003 after winning three championships with Shaq and Kobe.
Needless to say, when the Laker coaching staff gathers 'round the table, there quite literally isn't an NBA player that someone didn't coach or play with or against. However, only Shaw played alongside many of today's top players, rendering him some added insight on a guy like Kobe Bryant.
We sat down with Shaw after Monday's practice to pick his brain about Bryant's attitude and practice habits, Shaw's specific daily role on Jackson's staff and about the dynamics on a veteran group of great basketball minds.
MT: It's very obvious after watching practice that Kobe absolutely hates to lose any and every drill. Here's guessing that he's always been like that?
Shaw: Pretty much. That's pretty accurate. No matter what it is, he wants to win and he wants to stir the pot. The thing is, he wants all the guys that are on this team to have the same kind of enthusiasm and will to win as he does.
MT: It was often said last season how much Bryant had matured in terms of dealing with his teammates. What's your point of view?
Shaw: He has. He didn't say a whole lot when I first got to the team in 1999-2000, because we had a team full of veterans. I'd say within the last two years and particularly last year was when you really started to see him emerge. Because when the team first became his (after Shaq left), Kobe would get on guys and be critical, but not necessarily in a good way, to the point where it made them almost go into a shell. But in the last two years, he's gotten better at being more constructive with his criticism, and still being able to get on guys who understand that he's only trying to motivate them to play better. I think that's come with trust first in himself, and understanding that it's basically his team that needs to be molded and shaped how he needs it. He shows confidence in them by making the right passes and not always have to take the game-deciding shot, and that gives his teammates confidence. It's like one hand washing the other.
MT: Having played with Kobe for three seasons, and then coached him for three, you've certainly had a unique perspective ... What philosophy do you take in coaching him?
Shaw: Certain things you let him figure out for himself, and certain things you have to tell him over and over again. But coaching is just like raising children. You tell them, and then they have to experience it ... You can't rush experience. From a coaches' perspective, we can say to players like Andrew Bynum, “If you just run the floor hard after every rebound, you're going to get six extra points a game,” but until he puts the effort in and figures it out for himself, he's not going to get it. What gives you a good feeling is when you see these guys start to develop, mature and figure it out.
MT: If only you had that knowledge when you were playing...
Shaw: Right, and unfortunately that's just the way it works. Like, I wish I could shoot the ball as well as I can now back when I played. But I'm older, and I can't move physically, so I use my head more. When I was younger, I had the ability to run, jump and do things, so I'd let that take over and dominate when I should have been figuring things out. That just comes with time and experience.
MT: Assistant coaches wear several hats. Can you take me quickly through the average morning session including practice?
Shaw: We got in from Las Vegas at about 11 p.m. last night and got in this morning to watch film of our game at about 9 a.m. We did that for about an hour and basically marked things in the tape that we needed to work on to get better at in practice today, such as screen-and-roll defense, just talking and communicating that we need to do better, and then some offensive execution that we need to do better as well. Then we tailor a practice plan for how times are going to be allotted for each drill, and the other normal things we do in practice. We started up at 11, and after getting through all of the drills, we scrimmaged.
MT: At which point you put on your stripes...
Shaw: Right, Kurt (Rambis) and I usually referee, and we try to let the guys get in the flow without calling too many fouls, but you can't really win. Every guy wants to get the foul called for him, and nobody thinks they committed a foul. You take a lot of abuse while you're refereeing, but at the same time you're trying to instruct and coach when you see somebody doing something wrong. If you stop the play right in the middle of the action so you can correct it, it takes away from the other team's advantage and flow, but you don't want bad habits to stick.
MT: And that's different for every player?
Shaw: Yeah, you have to give more latitude to a player like Kobe. He's going to talk and say stuff, and he may say something back or have an opinion on something, but he's earned that respect. Where it gets bad is when you have the younger players that haven't done anything yet that think that we allowed Kobe to say something, so they can too. That's when you have to just make them understand that here's a 10-time All Star, All-Defensive Teams, World Champion, MVP, you know. If you don't have any accolades, then don't say anything. Everybody's time will come, but in order to ensure that, there needs to be one voice.
MT: What's the dynamic like on the coaching staff?
Shaw: We're all different, but part of our responsibilities as coaches is to (give our opinion) when we have it. Phil (Jackson) may tell me to (get lost) with my opinion, but if I see something and keep it to myself, then I'm not helping us. We have four different assistant coaches (plus two special assistants) that have four different ideas about how things work, and Phil's responsibility as a head coach is to take it all in and ultimately decide which direction to go in. That's why he gets paid the big bucks.
MT: Finally, what's it like for a young coach like you to have to much experience in front of you?
Shaw: It's been a great (learning situation) because so many different eras of basketball are on our coaching staff. When Tex Winter sits in our meetings and starts to tell stories about what it was like playing in the 1940s and 50s, and compare and contrast that with how much the game has changed and also how much it's stayed the same. Then you have Phil Jackson and Jim Cleamons, Frank Hamblin and Kurt Rambis with the 60s, 70s and 80s and my playing in the 80s, 90s and 2000s. It all helps.