When Phil Jackson retired in 2011, he wanted his assistant Brian Shaw to take over his seat for the Los Angeles Lakers. At that time, Shaw felt like he was the perfect candidate to replace Jackson because he would continue The Zen Master’s philosophies and system, and was also a champion and a long-time Laker. Jim Buss considered Shaw to take over Jackson’s seat, but in the end, lowballed him, and pivoted to Mike Brown instead.
Buss wanted a smart and proven coach.
According to Shaw, he and Buss didn’t have the same views. Jim, who Dr. Jerry Buss assigned to take over the operations side of the team because of his health concerns, wanted Andrew Bynum (who he drafted in 2005) to be the team’s focal superstar. Shaw even revealed that Jim said he was willing to trade Kobe Bryant because the next years were Bynum’s to conquer.
“I did my interview with Dr. Buss at his house. Dr Buss told me ‘In order for Jimmy to grow in his role, I have to step back and allow him to do what is best for the team going forward’. The rest of the meeting was mainly Jimmy doing a lot of the talking. He gave me the outlook of his team and that Andrew Bynum is the guy that’s gonna carry this team to the next era of Laker dominance. And he said everybody on the team including Kobe, could go if it came down to it because it was going to be Andrew who was gonna carry everything forward,” Shaw said in episode 9 of Legacy: The True Story of the Los Angeles Lakers documentary.
Despite being endorsed publicly by Jackson and Bryant, Shaw never heard back from Jim because he decided to hire Mike Brown instead. No call or text was sent to Shaw to inform him that he didn’t get the job. Jim wanted a head coach who had already made a name in the league and someone that proved he could lead a team to the NBA Finals — something that Brown did during his tenure with the Clevland Cavaliers.
Jim Buss said he never wanted to trade Kobe.
When Buss was asked if he once wanted to trade Bryant after Jackson left, the former denied that. As determined as Buss was to let Bynum shine, he said there was never a scenario where trading Bryant was a possibility. It was all about doing what was best for the Lakers organization post-Jackson era and ensuring the team got back on top where they belonged. Buss had reasons for hiring Brown, but the head coach only lasted five games and was fired after a slow start.
Who knows what would’ve happened if Jim Buss hired Shaw instead? Jackson’s imprints would certainly still be on the team. The Lakers also wouldn’t have jumbled coaches only to find themselves chasing after Jackson again a few years later. Safe to say that not hiring Shaw was a huge miss for Buss in 2011.