Why Brian Shaw Became the Latest Phil Jackson Disciple to Fail

LOS ANGELES — Brian Shaw's 56-86 record as Denver Nuggets head coach and firing Tuesday goes down in the books as another failure for Phil Jackson's coaching shrub.

Shaw's failure also goes to show that maybe the Los Angeles Lakers didn't miss out on that much by snubbing Jackson's line of lineage and hiring Mike Brown over Shaw in 2011.

Of course, Shaw would've had a greater chance at success as a first-time head coach if he'd inherited Jackson's established Lakers format—and Kobe Bryant—rather than trying to create a new culture with some Denver folks who had some success and weren't overeager to get a post-George Karl voice in 2013.

Steve Kerr's fantastic work as the Golden State Warriors' rookie head coach, however, proves such a transition is doable. The key is to have, as Kerr did, a true vision—and have the confidence to adhere to it amid the countless voices and demands that swirl around the head coach.

As much as we all breezily criticize head coaches, the job is ridiculously tough. You can't just stay in your lane and pick your spots to step out, as Shaw did as an outstanding assistant coach with the Lakers and Indiana Pacers. That has been the way for so many men working under Jackson over the years.

But being the leader is far different than being one counselor.

Kerr, notably, was not a Jackson assistant coach even if Kerr's style was largely formed by playing and winning championships for Jackson. Kerr's success this season is about as good an example of "preparation meets opportunity" as you'll ever see—and he prepared, bottom line, to be the kind of head coach he wanted to be.

The New York Knicks have to wonder what might have been if Kerr had gone there under new Knicks President Jackson.

But even as Shaw's failure in Denver eliminates one huge what-might-have-been scenario for Lakers fans who felt Shaw ...

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