The Denver Nuggets shouldn’t have never opened up the job that allowed Brian Shaw to become their head coach. He didn’t last two full seasons at the job, fired after failing to meet expectations, not coming close to contending for a playoff spot.
The Nuggets won their first game without Shaw, and recent events, including in the home loss to the Utah Jazz, suggest that the players were actually quite happy to see him go. There are different interpretations to the whole “1,2,3… Six weeks!” battlecry. Shaw thinks it had to do with the players mentioning the last time they had won at home up to that point, but there also happen to be six weeks until the end of the season. Now they don’t have to endure Shaw anymore.
The Denver Nuggets made the playoffs in each season from 2003-2004 until 2012-2013 with George Karl at the helm, including winning a franchise high 56 times on his last season. But Karl got past the first round only once during that decade, which helped ease the transition from him to another coach. The problem was the Nuggets didn’t just fire an excellent head coach – they let go of a very good general manager, and started from scratch for no good reason.
Shaw had the reputation of an elite assistant after his time with the Pacers and Lakers. But the Phil Jackson coaching tree is barren, and maybe the warning signs were on the wall. Either way, Shaw got the job, and never did much with it, regardless of how well he was stocked to compete in the incredibly difficult West. The Nuggets won 36 games on his first season and only 20 games out of 59 before he was fired, making it a short stay on his first NBA head coaching job.
Injuries (Danilo Gallinari missed all of last season), feuds with key players (drove Andre Miller away, had problems with Ty Lawson) and maybe the lack of veteran leadership to help the younger players and himself in a difficult first job seemed to create the situation in which the Nuggets and himself were destined to fail. Winning only twice on his final 21 games as a coach sealed his fate, and created the vacancy which now a lot of coaches will be after.
So who comes in for Shaw to fill in and try to fix his unimpressive legacy? Rumors suggest the Nuggets are looking for a long term solution although everyone loves to say that. Mike D’Antoni is interested in the job, coaching the Lakers for two seasons as his last stint. Avery Johnson, currently working on television, would also love to coach a team he has played for. Alvin Gentry will be a candidate come the offseason, while Mark Jackson and Vinny Del Negro are also names worth considering.