The Sixers want the “right man,” according to owner Joshua Harris, to become the 24th head coach in franchise history, succeeding Doug Collins who was at the helm for the previous three seasons.
But finding the right man isn't easy.
Something former Sixers assistant coach and current Indiana Pacers head coach Frank Vogel said rings true:
“I think if you don’t have a big name, I think it is tough to win some of these jobs that could be open,” Vogel said. “Obviously, the recommendations of the higher-ups factor into it. The success of the teams you have been with as an assistant coach factor into it as well.”
Sitting on Vogel’s bench is an up-and-comer in Brian Shaw. And an up-and-comer is exactly what the Sixers' front office is interested in.
The Sixers, according to a source, have contacted the Pacers' associate head coach about their vacant head-coaching position. Because the Pacers are in the playoffs, Shaw will interview for the position when the time is appropriate.
Shaw, 47, played 14 years in the NBA with 12 playoff appearances, four NBA Finals showings and three NBA championships.
Shaw may have never been a star, but he is a winner. When he ended his playing career with the Los Angeles Lakers, he transitioned to coaching, becoming an assistant on Phil Jackson’s staff and staying there from 2004-11.
As an assistant coach, two more championship rings were added to his collection in 2009 and 2010.
Jackson was grooming Shaw to one day have his own team. Over the last couple years, Shaw has interviewed for nine head coaching positions; some of those discussions were more serious than others.
Jackson retired in 2011, but rather than promote Shaw, the Lakers tapped Mike Brown as their new head coach.
Shaw found himself in unfamiliar territory.
Situations like these are where the NBA fraternity comes into play. Years earlier, when Jim O’Brien had been relieved of his coaching duties in Philadelphia, longtime Shaw friend and O’Brien assistant, Lester Conner, put in a good word with Shaw about fellow assistant coach Frank Vogel.
With Shaw’s help, Vogel became the East Coast scout for the Lakers in Fall 2005, until O’Brien landed the head coaching position in Indiana in May 2007 and again hired Vogel as an assistant coach.
In Jan. 2011, with Indiana 17-27, O’Brien was again relieved of his duties, and the 37-year-old Vogel, with no head-coaching experience, took over.
The Pacers turned things around, made the postseason, and the interim tag was taken off Vogel as head coach that offseason. He was the youngest head coach in the league at the time and had never played in the NBA -- which is not a necessity, just an observation.
Shaw, with seven years next to Phil Jackson and more then a decade as an NBA player, was an ideal associate head-coaching candidate, one in need of a job, just as Vogel was in 2005.
It didn’t hurt that then-president of the Pacers, Larry Bird, had been Shaw’s teammate when he was drafted by the Celtics in 1988 and had tremendous respect for Shaw as a player and coach.
What comes around goes around. Shaw has spent the past two seasons helping Vogel be successful in his head coaching debut and developed players like Paul George, who was named an all-star and the most-improved player in the NBA this season.
Shaw is ready to coach his own team, but according to a source, he is cautious, looking for the right job. Yes, he has previously interviewed for nine head-coaching positions, but year after year, teams go through thorough searches looking for their “right” guy when, too often, they have a candidate in mind but do the extensive search so as not to appear hasty. (Cleveland was the exception this spring when they targeted Brown and re-signed him in short order.)
A year ago, according to a source, Shaw was offered the Bobcats' job, but for various reasons, Shaw didn’t think it was the “right” fit.
Maybe Shaw knew something Mike Dunlap did not. Charlotte hired Dunlap, who won 14 more games more than the Bobcats did a year ago, but was still relieved of his coaching duties after the season. Dunlap may never get another head-coaching opportunity.
A new, fresh face needs a team that will support this growth as a head coach and his plan for producing a winner.
Brian Shaw’s day as a head coach is cominng. The question is: will it be in Philadelphia?