Is Brian Shaw the motivator, fresh voice the Pacers need?

Brian Shaw frequently worked with players after practice.

Brian Shaw frequently worked with players after practice.

Larry Bird, the Pacers President of Basketball Operations, sat in front of reporters last Thursday and said “I just came to the conclusion that I felt it was necessary for these guys to hear a new voice.” After five and a half seasons, which included two conference finals appearances and participation in the postseason every year but in 2015, when Paul George was out most of the year, Bird was moving on from Frank Vogel.

When I heard Bird mention in his press conference the need for the next head coach to 1. motivate and 2. be in their ear, Shaw immediately came to mind.

“It’s all about motivating the players and getting them to play at a higher level,” Bird said. “If you got their ear, it works.”

Shaw, 50, played for seven teams over his 14-year playing career, and then he was an assistant coach for nearly a decade. When Vogel’s interim tag was removed in the summer of 2011, Bird was adamant that Vogel hire experienced assistant coaches to aid in his early development.

[Pacers Podcast: Talking to reporters who covered three potential coaches — Shaw, Hornacek, and D’Antoni]

Shaw was Vogel’s right-hand man for two seasons as associate head coach. And then — finally! — Shaw landed his first head-coaching gig, in Denver.

In my opinion, Shaw was the Pacers’ biggest personnel loss over the last three years.

[Pacers upset about Nuggets firing of Brian Shaw]

While not an ideal situation, and it didn’t go well, Shaw was a head coach for 141 games with the Nuggets.

“What I quickly found out was that the mindset and mentality that the guys have here is completely different than the guys on the Pacers,” Shaw told me during a long phone conversation in 2014.

He has sat the last year and a half out — still getting paid by the Nuggets — and he appeared on NBA TV dozens of times as a guest analyst. He’s looking to get back in the league and he’d like to get another shot at being the top guy on the bench. And he’d certainly be interested in returning to the Pacers.

“Obviously I would love to have another opportunity to be a head coach again,” Shaw told ESPN’s Hannah Storm on Monday. “My relationship with Larry Bird goes back to the three years that I played with him, starting my career out.”

While in Indy, Shaw was instrumental in the development of Paul George and Lance Stephenson. He motivated them, he challenged them, and he inspired them to work. With Shaw, players would stay around after practice to play Around The World with him, where you have to hit numerous 3-pointers in a row from a spot before moving on to the next. First one around, wins.

Here's Shaw shooting with Lance Stephenson.

Here’s Shaw shooting with Lance Stephenson.

Shaw wouldn’t only play, but he was the biggest trash talker.

With Paul George, now a three-time NBA All-Star and a top ten player in the league, he often shared stories about Kobe Bryant and his work ethic.

He might say, “Kobe’s working right now, so why aren’t you? Kobe wants it so bad that he’s the first one to practice and last to leave. Why aren’t you?”

“B-Shaw here was like a big brother for me,” George said in 2014. “He was a huge mentor for me, somebody I respected and looked up to while he was here, and continue to look up to.”

[Brian Shaw on Head Coach Duties and Lessons Learned From Pacers]

Shaw’s message resonated with those guys. And Shaw and George remain close today.

In fact, Shaw came to Indy to see George and go fishing with him last fall before the season. George is the face of the franchise and so it would make a ton of sense to bring in an individual who could continue to push George and work in developing 20-year-old Myles Turner.

And, Shaw wouldn’t cost a fortune.

“I spent two seasons there under Frank Vogel as the associate head coach and I’m familiar with some of the players on that team and the way that they do business there,” Shaw continued. “With that being said, it’s a bittersweet situation to be in, position to be in, because I have so much respect for Frank Vogel.

“I think he did a great job, especially with what he’s had to go through over the last couple of seasons with Paul George’s injury last year, losing David West and Roy Hibbert and Lance Stephenson, guys who were critical parts of the two teams that went to the Eastern Conference Finals.

“Obviously, that is the goal of any coach to want to run their own system and be the head guy in charge of trying to put things together.”

Bird said he has a list of potential coaches that he started to put together only recently.

“I’ll take my time and go through a lot, make sure we get the guy we think can lead them and keep the ears of the players and push them to higher levels than they have been lately,” he said last week.

“We’ve got some good players and we got two guys that I think are really good players. How are we going to get the other guys to raise their level of play? That’s what the new coach has got to do.”

The Pacers, especially Bird, are silent when it comes to their thinking and who Bird may be talking to about the job. Therefore, we only have an obvious list of names, like Shaw, Nate McMillan, Jeff Hornacek, Mike D’Antoni, and more to work from for now.

Might Shaw be that guy? Bird and the Pacers’ front office will likely take a good, hard look at bringing him back.

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