During a timeout on February 27 in a 104-82 loss to the Utah Jazz, the Denver Nuggets were heard allegedly chanting 1-2-3….6 weeks. That chant was what I believe was the final straw for Brian Shaw, head coaching career in Denver.
The media believed the chant was counting down the end of the season; however, Shaw said it was in reference to the Nuggets haven’t won a home game in nearly six weeks. I believe the Nuggets were counting down until they were heading to vacation to the Islands, despite their 20-39 record at that time and even losing 19 of 21 games at one point.
Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojinarowsi first reported the firing of Brian Shaw on March 3. Shaw had a 56-85 heading coaching record in less than two seasons with the team.
Shaw was for six years an assistant coach with the Los Angeles Lakers and even worked and played for Phil Jackson. He won three NBA Championship rings as a player and two as an assistant coach.
He became the Nuggets head coach after the organization fired 2013 NBA Head coach of the year George Karl after a 57-25 season record.
Shaw was said to not being able to relate to the players because of his “old-school style”, and felt many players were immature and unprofessional. He demanded for players to place their cell phones in a box because they were distracted with social media rather than focusing on film. Shaw was seeking help to improve his communication skills with the players.
Shaw even had an incident with one of his former players guard Andre Miller, who was suspended by the organization for two games for arguing with Shaw. Miller yelled at Shaw, who was a rookie head coach at that time about feeling disrespected because Shaw sat him out during Denver’s 114-102 home loss to Philadelphia on January 1, 2014. This marked Miller’s first did not play-coach decision of his career.
Shaw felt some of the players had given up in the middle of the season. NBA All-Star and Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Garnett said he believed that the Denver Nuggets had quit on Brian Shaw.
Since the firing of Shaw, Melvin Hunt, one of Shaw’s assistant coaches was named Interim head coach and the team has won 6 out of their last 8 games under Hunt.
Nuggets fans, including myself, have been happy, but why has the team been so successful? They have beaten Top Eastern Conference leading Atlanta Hawks 115-102 and top Western Conference leading Golden State Warriors 114-103. So what has gotten into the Nuggets since March 3?
Guard Randy Foye said, “We’re going.” The Nuggets have the league’s third-fastest pace averaging 100.2 possessions per 48 minutes, according to NBA.com. The Nuggets once had the second-worst defensive rating (107.2 points per 100 possessions) and now have the ninth-best defensive rating (allowing 98.8 points per 100 possessions) and averaging 106 points per game, all under Hunt. It’s the same players that are winning these games. All of a sudden they are playing hard and winning games.
I think the team quit on Shaw, or maybe playing under Shaw was not fun for these guys. Shaw was slowing their pace and their personnel. Do I think the players caused the organization to fire Shaw? No, because management fired Karl after a 57-25 season, but the players played a huge factor about that decision.
Hunt has a new style of play for the Nuggets and is exploiting the strengths of these players and the team is playing with more energy and excitement. I know the Nuggets are not making it into the playoffs this year, but I’m excited about not 1-2-3…. but six wins.
I don’t know if Brian Shaw will ever be a head coach again. I hope a team gives him another shot because I want to see what he can do with a hard working talented roster.
Potential candidates to become the next Nuggets head coach are former Lakers, Suns, Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni, Warriors associate head coach Alvin Gentry, but my choice is Melvin Hunt.