clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

There will be no FireBrianShaw.com

New, comments

The future of Brian Shaw, the Peter Principle and another lost Denver Nuggets season.

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

Alex Goodlett

"Victory has 1000 fathers; defeat is an orphan."

-John F. Kennedy, 1961

In mid-November, soon after our Denver Nuggets embarrassed themselves by giving up 84 points at halftime to the Portland Trail Blazers ... at home ... on a full day's rest ... against a Blazers squad playing the second of a back-to-back ... the first of which came down to a four-point differential at the Los Angeles Clippers ... which means the Blazers arrived in Denver around 4am on game day (okay, you get it) ... I began getting inundated with the texts, calls, emails, Facebook messages, Facebook posts, Tweets and carrier pigeon letters (alright, no carrier pigeon letters) calling out for the same thing: "You need to launch FireBrianShaw.com!!!!"

Some wins (including two separate five-game winning streaks), more losses and everything in-between since, the calls for Shaw's head had ceased until mid-January when Shaw and the Nuggets' struggles resurfaced again. Six consecutive losses later - including a humiliating Martin Luther King, Jr. Day defeat at Golden State by an astounding 43 points - and Shaw is again in the crosshairs of the "guillotine" - a phrase Shaw himself used in mid-November after the Nuggets dropped six straight games and started the season 1-6.

As the asshole who launched FireGeorgeKarl.com way back in 2008 (my first-ever sports blog, something I created long before joining forces with Nate Timmons' Pick Axe and Roll and jointly forming the new Denver Stiffs), I can emphatically tell our beloved community that no such version featuring Coach Shaw's name will be launched. At least not by me. Because while FireGeorgeKarl.com was meant to be a creative, sarcastic and antagonistic stunt at the time to get a hyper-talented and supremely expensive Nuggets team to play up to their championship caliber potential, I was never proud of that site's moniker and mission. In the years since its launch, I have had the pleasure of getting to know former Nuggets head coach George Karl and am proud to regard Coach Karl as a personal friend to this day. (I luckily re-branded the site as DenverStiffs.com immediately after the conclusion of the Nuggets' disappointing 2007-08 campaign, saw our readership skyrocket soon thereafter, covered Karl's 2008-09 Nuggets thrilling ascent to the Western Conference Finals, and then merged a season later with Nate and the SB Nation family.)

Unlike my relationship with Karl, I have no such personal relationship with Coach Shaw and have only met the Nuggets current head coach on a few occasions. But in those brief periods of interpersonal interaction, I have found Coach Shaw to be incredibly likable, insightful, engaging and interesting. And by all accounts he works really hard ... his gravely disappointing coaching record to date notwithstanding.

But just because Coach Shaw is likable, bright and works hard doesn't necessarily mean he's the right guy to coach this Nuggets team at this time. And while, yes, the Nuggets on Shaw's watch have been besieged by injuries - the Nuggets were second in the NBA in 2013-14 in player games missed due to injury and have already lost Danilo Gallinari, Randy Foye and JaVale McGee to injuries for much of this season - and Shaw inherited a newly remodeled roster in the wake of Karl's departure, injuries and roster clunkiness alone don't explain the team's consistent lack of effort, squirrely end-of-game execution, Shaw's refusal to play rookie big man Jusuf Nurkic more than five minutes in the second half of games, a .500 home record and a 10-8 record against sub-.500 opponents (including being the only NBA team thus far this season to lose to the god awful New York Knicks, Los Angeles Lakers and Minnesota Timberwolves - hat tip to CBSSports.com's Matt Moore for pointing that dubious fact out).

Moreover, for one-and-a-half seasons Shaw has been unable to take advantage of the Nuggets sizable altitude / airport location / time zone change home court edge while simultaneously being unable to develop a defining personality for the club on the basketball floor. Here we are six weeks after I wrote that the 2014-15 Denver Nuggets make no sense ... and the 2014-15 Denver Nuggets still make no sense.

Throw in Shaw's ornery attitude towards his players (mostly through the media), and we as Nuggets fans are faced with two straight seasons that will end with a lottery selection in June's NBA Draft.

But rather than launch a gimmicky website that embarrasses Shaw, his family and those in the Nuggets organization who work their butts off every day alongside Shaw to put a good product on the floor (whether a good product comes from it or not), I'm going to let nature take its course, so to speak. With an 18-26 record through 44 games this season and a 54-72 (.429) record through 126 games, it's unlikely that Shaw's tenure as head coach will last as long as his three-year contract with the Nuggets dictates it could. And Shaw and the Nuggets certainly don't need me to rub that in.

Furthermore, the "Fire Shaw" cabin fire had already been lit many months ago, led by Woody Paige in the Denver Post (which is somewhat ironic because just over a season ago Paige wrote that the Nuggets "can't miss" if they hire Shaw to succeed Karl ... although it should be noted that we at Denver Stiffs were very supportive of the Shaw hiring, as well). And if the losing we've experienced recently continues unabated, others will soon follow.

My personal thoughts on Shaw? I think Coach Shaw is a really good guy who, for a variety of reasons, is really in over his head as a first-time NBA head coach. Maybe he's another season away from "getting it", or maybe he'll just never get it. Either way, to date Shaw's coaching tenure brings renowned education professor Laurence J. Peter's famous "Peter Principle" theory to mind, which essentially argues that all too often organizations promote folks based on their past or current performance, regardless of whether or not they can handle more responsibility, bolder objectives and so forth in a promoted position.

Peter states:

" ... in time, every post tends to be occupied by an employee who is incompetent to carry out its duties ... "

And ...

"... that work is accomplished by those employees who have not yet reached their level of incompetence."

In other words, perhaps Shaw is simply better off being a terrific assistant coach than a not-so-terrific head coach. After all, Shaw still gets credit for his tenures in Indiana and Los Angeles as a lead assistant coach who helped develop star players like Paul George and Kobe Bryant, respectively, among others. And there's certainly nothing wrong with being one of the NBA's elite assistant coaches, especially in a sport where assistant coaches can make high six-figure salaries. (Don't you think the putrid New York Knicks could use someone like Shaw right now alongside head coach and former Shaw teammate, Derek Fisher?)

But to lay the Nuggets struggles 100% at Shaw's feet would be disingenuous and wholly unfair. If the FireGeorgeKarl.com episode taught me / us anything, it's that "victory has 1000 fathers; defeat is an orphan" (a quote made famous by former US President John F. Kennedy in 1961, though the origin is credited to Roman historian Tacitus around 98 AD). In the case of the Nuggets, there is plenty of blame to go around from upper management down through the last player on the Nuggets roster. But as has been stated numerous times since the dawn of professional sports, it's a hell of a lot easier to remove one guy than an entire team or an entire organization ... hence why coaches (fairly or unfairly) typically get the axe first.

So with that, if someone decides to launch FireBrianShaw.com it won't be me.

But should the Nuggets organization ultimately decide to remove Shaw as their head coach, don't be surprised if HireGeorgeKarl.com surfaces soon thereafter.

*****

Reminder: Our next Stiffs Night Out is happening THIS Wednesday beginning at 5:30pm as the Nuggets take on the Pelicans in New Orleans. As our first-ever Happy Hour SNO, Jake's Food & Spirits (3800 Walnut Street) will be our host and will serve up 50-cent wings and happy hour drink prices throughout the game.

And we'll be playing Nuggets trivia for prizes and families are welcome. See you all there!

****