Relied upon as an extra pair eyes on the sideline, helping identify and correct the miniscule mistakes that tend to go unnoticed, it is often that the men or women behind the head coach are underappreciated.
Usually uncaptured by the spotlight that surrounds the likes of athletes and head coaches, the role of assistant coaches and scouts remains a significant asset within the performance and communication of a team.
For Brian Shaw, who is preparing for his first season as the Los Angeles Lakers associate head coach, the opportunity to have an immediate impact is greater with Luke Walton making his head coaching debut this year.
Making a return to L.A. after being both a player (1999-2003) and assistant coach (2005-11) with the franchise in the past, Shaw can be of some aid to Walton in his first year despite amassing a 56-85 record as the Denver Nuggets head coach for nearly two seasons.
While returning to the team with which he spent the majority of his 16-year NBA career, (a total of four seasons that resulted in three championships), certainly had to be a nostalgic experience. Shaw’s return to UCSB, his alma mater, for training camp was even more evocative as he rejoiced over his experience as a Gaucho.
“It’s great [to return to UCSB],” Shaw said. “It brought a smile on my face. Just bringing back a lot of memories of some of the [most] fun days of my life. When you’re figuring things out when you’re in college, for the first time you have this responsibility of being on your own and still having to take care of business in the classroom without your parents hovering over you.”
Shaw transferred to UCSB after two years of attending and playing basketball for Saint Mary’s College of California from 1983-1985.
In just two seasons, Shaw’s rise to prominence quickly cemented him as one of the greatest in UCSB history.
Shaw earned various accolades and helped the Gauchos become elite contenders coming out of the Big West. His senior season was a breakout year in which he was an All-American and All-District selection.
A two-time All-Big West player, Shaw was named the 1988 Big West Player of the Year after averaging a career-high 13.3 points and 8.7 rebounds per game while shooting 46.6 percent from the field.
His average of 6.1 assists per game ranks 10th in all-time in Big West history.
The Oakland, Calif. native continued his dominance standing as the only player in UCSB history to record a triple-double, ending his career with a total of five. Nonetheless, Shaw is the only player in Big West history to lead the conference in both rebounding and assists in a single-season.
Never afraid of the big moment, the Gauchos’ star player helped lead them in upsetting UNLV twice during the 1987-88 season to end the Runnin’ Rebels’ 28-game home winning streak.
He showed his clutch instinct prior to his senior campaign as well. In his first year with UCSB, Shaw tallied 22 points, 20 rebounds, 10 assists and three steals in a 96-78 victory over then No. 5 North Carolina State.
The Cinderella story of a season continued in 1988 when Shaw and the Gauchos earned their first ever at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.
It was the perfect sense of closure to UCSB winning a program-record 22 games.
Shaw went on to pursue a professional career in the NBA and was drafted in the first round as the 24th selection by the Boston Celtics in the 1988 NBA Draft.
Including the Celtics, the former Gaucho would become an NBA journeyman and play for six different franchises in his 16-year career.
He concluded his career having played in 943 games and finished with averages of 6.9 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 4.2 assists per game. Shaw ended his career with a 40.3 field goal perceentage and shot 30.4 percent from beyond the arc.
With his glory days at UCSB in the distant past, the challenge of helping the talented, yet primarily young, Laker squad led by Walton awaits him.
Although his return to coaching does not entitle head coaching duties, Shaw understands his role and was rejoiced about the potential of the Lakers heading into the 2016 season.
“It was only three [or] four years ago in my first opportunity as a head coach. I just look at my responsibility as trying to make everything as smooth as possible for him [Walton],” Shaw said, “So that he can just worry about coaching the games, diagraming plays and all the things he needs to do. Whatever fires need to be put out in the meantime, that’s what myself and the rest of the coaching staff are here for.”
Now three games into their preseason schedule with a 2-1 record, the Lakers prepare to face the Sacramento Kings tonight.
While exhibition games during the preseason do not fully depict a team’s potential for the regular season, the Los Angeles Lakers definitely have a swagger and confidence from their young core that is noticeable both on and off the court.
Hopefully this demeanor will be of some positive benefit as they hope to never endure the harsh realities of last season’s franchise-worst 17-65 finish.