As I wrote when Luke Walton was named head coach, who he brings on as his assistant coaches would be very important — maybe more so than other candidates who were being considered — to his success as head man. Walton, after all, does not possess a lot of head coaching experience, so the type of people he surrounds himself with matter a great deal.
Namely, one thing Walton will likely need is experience in his staff and, hopefully, experience who he is both familiar with and who share his sensibilities as a coach. One name which has surfaced, according to The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski, is Brian Shaw:
New head coach Luke Walton is starting to construct his coaching staff, and the most prominent on his short list of candidates is Brian Shaw, league sources said.
Shaw was a longtime assistant under Phil Jackson, and most recently the head coach of the Denver Nuggets. Lakers executive vice president Jim Buss resisted Shaw as a head-coaching candidate before the hiring of Byron Scott, and many in the league doubt his enthusiasm over having another Jackson loyalist rejoining the coaching staff.
There’s much to unpack here, so let’s get to it. First, Walton is very familiar with Shaw. As noted, Shaw coached under Phil Jackson in Los Angeles for many years and his time there as an assistant overlapped with Walton’s as a player. Shaw has experience running the Triangle, which while not the offense Walton will install, involves many principles Walton will make priorities — namely spacing, ball and player movement, and playing together as a team.
The second part of Woj’s report is that Jim Buss wouldn’t be thrilled about Shaw coming back on. He notes this is the sense from many around the league. I would imagine this would be the sense of many around the league. Conventional thought is that Jim passed over Shaw to be the Lakers’ head coach when Phil retired and then passed over Phil himself when Mike Brown was fired. So, it would be fair to reason now that adding Shaw (and his still relevant ties to Jackson) would be frowned upon. Especially with the ongoing rumors Phil could be back in as soon as a season to take Jim’s job should the Lakers not live up to the type of success detailed in Jim’s “timeline”.
I’ve no idea how much stock to put into this. It all makes sense, of course. What also makes sense is that this front office just hired Walton to coach the team for 5 years and will pay him $25 million to do so. One would reason, then, that Walton would have some liberties in choosing his staff — within reason. Shaw’s past history with Jackson doesn’t seem to be reason enough to leave him out of the equation if that’s what Walton wants.
I mean, Byron Scott hired his son to be on his staff (his son, it should be added, had earned a reputation as a hard worker on staffs not led by his father). Mike D’Antoni hired his brother Dan, who had been a long time member of his staffs in other stops of his career. Walton, a 36 year old first time coach, doesn’t have a brother or a son to hire, but he does have a relationship with a coach who has head coaching experience, coached him in championship seasons, and has had other success as an assistant outside of the Lakers.
That last sentence should not be ignored. It’s easy to forget now, but when Brian Shaw did not get the Lakers’ job, he joined Frank Vogel’s staff in Indiana as his assistant/associate head coach. Shaw was known then to have very strong relationships with the players as a straight shooting, tell-it-like-it-is sounding board who helped in the development of Paul George and Lance Stephenson. His work with George was especially valued and it was thought at the time Shaw took the Denver job he would be really missed by that staff.
We will see how this plays out, but Shaw makes a lot of sense as an assistant on Walton’s staff.
Beyond Shaw’s name being reported as an options, however, another was floated this morning by ESPN’s Ethan Strauss. Appearing on Zach Lowe’s podcast, Strauss — who covers the Warriors — was asked about Walton’s coaching prowess and also brought up the importance of Walton’s staff composition. Noting he, as a Warriors’ beat reporter, was interested in who from that staff Walton would bring with him to Los Angeles, Strauss said he assumed assistant coach Chris DeMarco would be someone who left Oakland with Walton.
I don’t know much about DeMarco, but this is from his coaching page at the Warriors’ website:
Chris DeMarco is in his fourth season with the Golden State?Warriors, his first as a player development coach. In this role, he works with the team’s players on individual skill development.
DeMarco, 30, served as the team’s advance scout/video scout during the 2014-15 Championship season, assisting the coaching staff with game preparation and opponent scouting reports. He originally joined the Warriors prior to the 2012-13 campaign as a video intern and was promoted to assistant video coordinator for the 2013-14 season.
Walton himself has a strong history of player development, but more of these types of coaches would be good adds. DeMarco’s history as someone who had background in video work, scouting, and player development sounds like the exact type of coach who would be a nice fit. It’s important to note, again, Strauss is not reporting DeMarco will be added to Walton’s staff, but did speak of it as a strong possibility. Like Shaw, we will see how this plays out.