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Brian Shaw Rebounds

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Why the Denver Nuggets sophomore coach could be doing big things in his second campaign

B. Shaw bringing a little sunshine to Season 2.
B. Shaw bringing a little sunshine to Season 2.
Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

My wife and I were watching late-night TV the other evening, and an Audi A3 ad popped up in which they were playing snippets of different people in different situations fervently piecing together the lyrics of Queen's "We Are the Champions". I found the ad engaging and interesting and... then they wrapped the entire thing up with a few seconds of Ricky Gervais. Damnit. So much for that A3 purchase (as if I could). I'm rarely given to such quick judgments, but for some reason, I cannot abide Mr. Gervais. I understand his appeal for many, as I do find him funny and charming, and yet... in every interview, panel and persona piece I've seen... I unfortunately find him an irretrievable douche. This is a strict no-no on the Olson-I-Have-Time-For-You-To-Occupy-My-Grey-Matter-List, and so I avoid him quite passively. To his credit regarding said douchery, Ricky embraces this aspect of himself, and cares zippity-squat what Mike Olson's opinion is, so we can amicably agree to go our separate ways. All the best, Ricky.

I told my wife about my quick gut reaction to the ad, and she laughingly told me she'd been examining exactly the same reaction in herself. Sorry, Audi. No sales at the Olson household. But my dear girl, in her infinite wisdom, asked if I'd experienced a similar-but-opposite response with someone I'd never personally met. Someone I liked without knowing deeply. After a moment's thought, I said, "Brian Shaw".

Last year, HBO's "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel" ran an emotional and heartfelt piece about Shaw's life and history, focusing deeply on a tragedy that I wouldn't wish upon my worst enemy - more on that in a minute - as a part of their 200th episode. I was immediately struck by Shaw's strength, resilience and honesty, and resolved to learn a little more about the man.

Brian Shaw was born in 1966, and spent his childhood and teenage years on the rougher side of the Bay Area, in and around Oakland, playing around the likes of Jason Kidd and Gary Payton, amongst other future NBA stars. From a close-knit family, Shaw kept himself out of the trouble that plagued many around him via a strength of character imparted by his mom and dad, and a love for the game of basketball. Throughout his life, his work ethic is lauded, his interpersonal skills exceptional, his intelligence and memory always applauded.

In an exceptional piece by the Denver Post's Benjamin Hochman last year, Shaw has shown to be a source of guidance and comfort for many around him. And though they'd prefer I not reveal too many details (for I am a lowly blogger), four separate Denver-area friends relate running into Shaw in one circumstance or another, both personally and professionally, and cannot say kind enough things about the interaction(s), some of which are ongoing. It's a rare individual who deals in such kindness and is still continually asked to be a leader.

In case you'd not worked out my admiration for the man after all these studies, let me "put the cherry on top" of what I found.

He's maintained this success, attitude and ethic as a player and coach in the midst of (in no particular order, save the end):

  • Mediating the Kobe Bryant-Shaquille O'Neal feud during the three-peat Lakers run. One of their most successful times.
  • Mediating the Allen Iverson-Larry Brown relationship during his time with the Philadelphia 76'ers. Not one of their most successful seasons, but the start of one of their most successful periods.
  • Calming a rattled Golden State Warriors team as a leader amongst the post-Latrell Sprewell-P.J. Carlesimo ChokeGate fallout. OK, maybe not a period of success for the Warriors, but... let's not get crazy about how much you could have done with that 4-year roster.
  • As a first year head coach, having to call a day-long-let-it-all-out series of one-on-one meetings that got the Nuggets back on track after Andre Miller's bench meltdown, as attributed by several players last season.
  • The tragic death and loss of close friend and NBA star Reggie Lewis, coming only a month after...
  • I won't belabor the tragic death of Shaw's parents and sister, as there are several articles and video pieces (including the Real Sports piece referenced above) which lay out the awful details of a horror no one should ever have to endure. I'll stop there, as I hope if ever Brian Shaw reads this, that he understands I simply didn't wish him to have to read yet one more re-telling. All others, if you find yourself unfamiliar with the details, and wish to learn more, the Post piece above tells it all too well.

In the midst of those, and so many more, Brian Shaw not only endured, he succeeded, and lifted those nearest and dearest around him. At one point, he held the NBA record for most 3-pointers made in one game, at 10. He spent one season as a scout between his playing career and his move to assistant coach. Shaquille O'Neal speaks only glowingly of Shaw. Kobe Bryant wanted him as the Lakers head coach when it would have mattered. Phil Jackson would have liked to have poached him this offseason, and also endorsed Shaw's candidacy upon his Lakers retirement. Josh Kroenke could not have been clearer in how happy he is to have Brian as his coach. Though it took him time to find this end of the bench, Shaw has always been well-regarded amongst the league as a probable long-term head coach. Oh, and one of Shaw's hands is rather heavy (if he chooses to laden it) with all five of his Championship rings as a player and coach.

In the face of a Lakers meltdown that threatened their ability to succeed, Brian Shaw rebounded.

In the face of a few troublesome moments for a first-time head coach, Brian Shaw rebounded.

In the face of a loss I hope to never personally truly comprehend, Brian Shaw rebounded. Just ask his niece-now-daughter, Brianna, a happy and bright 21-year old. Brianna's name resembling Brian's is no accident. He and his sister were so close, she was named after him.

So... in the face of something so relatively paltry as the stress of following up a 36-win season (which could have easily been 25, had he not staunched that slide), I expect that Brian Shaw will follow suit, and rebound.


*Brian Shaw had 3183 total rebounds in his 16 seasons as a player for the Lakers, Magic, Heat, Celtics, Warriors, 76'ers and Trailblazers.