The Denver Nuggets fired head coach Brian Shaw after a 20-39 record through March 3. He was in his second season with the team.
The Denver Nuggets fired head coach Brian Shaw on March 3.
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The Nuggets issued a press release on their official website on Shaw's dismissal on Tuesday. The team tapped Melvin Hunt, a fifth-year assistant, to be its interim head coach for the remainder of the 2014-15 NBA season.
General manager and executive vice president of basketball operations Tim Connelly, who made the announcement on Nuggets.com, thanked Shaw for his contributions:
"I want to sincerely thank Brian for his time with our organization. You won't find a better guy than Brian and he is one of the brightest basketball minds I've ever been around. Unfortunately things didn't go as we hoped, but we know with his basketball acumen that he has a very bright future ahead of him."
Denver Nuggets president Josh Kroenke said in the same press release the team's lofty expectations left it with no choice but to make this coaching change:
"On behalf of everyone in the Nuggets organization, I would personally like to thank Brian for his services the past two seasons in Denver. He is a champion and a gentleman and I wish him nothing but the best for himself and his family moving forward. Since we purchased the franchise in 2000 we have constantly strived to field a competitive team, culminating in 10 straight playoff appearances and a franchise record 57 wins in the 2012-13 regular season. Expectations have been raised and we want more.
"This season our management staff has remained patient and supportive as decisions of this nature are never taken lightly. Patience is encouraged, as long as the organization continues to show progress toward a greater goal.
"However, competing for championships is our goal, and therefore we decided to make this decision now and look forward to conducting an extensive head coaching search upon the season's conclusion. This has been a trying season for all of us, and we appreciate Nuggets fans' continued faith and patience as we build our proud organization back to the NBA's elite."
Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski confirmed Shaw's firing on Tuesday, citing league sources.
According to ESPN, the timing of Shaw's dismissal "was somewhat surprising" because Connelly seemed to drop hints that Shaw would remain Nuggets head coach at least until the end of the 2014-15 NBA season.
For his part, Shaw had been complaining to his bosses about the maturity and professionalism of some of the Nuggets players. The team's higher-ups told him to sort them out himself, per ESPN's Ramona Shelburne.
The ESPN update adds Shaw tried to cancel shootarounds in an effort to reach out to his players more, but his approach did little to turn the situation around. His players declined comment on their head coach's dismissal when they left the Pepsi Center after a Tuesday morning meeting prior to that night's game against the Milwaukee Bucks.
Bucks head coach Jason Kidd told ESPN he had dinner with Shaw on Monday evening. The former said Shaw seemed not to expect he was about to get fired. Kidd quipped,"This wasn't anything, I don't think, he saw coming. It's unfortunate what happened with B-Shaw, being one of my mentors as a player and also a good friend."
Indiana Pacers power forward David West, who had worked with Shaw when he was an assistant coach with the Pacers, wasn't too pleased with the news, per ESPN. He said,"That's bull----. There are no grown-ups on that roster. You can't win without grown-ups."
The Denver Post's Mark Kiszla says,"Denver players had quit on Shaw." Some manifestations of this were point guard Ty Lawson skipping practice after last month's All-Star break and power forward Kenneth Faried "who pouted whenever his minutes on the court were cut."
Lawson even pointed out the lack of professionalism and mental toughness of the Nuggets after they lost by 10 at home to the defending champions San Antonio Spurs in January, per Kiszla.
ESPN's Marc Stein identifies former Nuggets head coach Mike D'Antoni and former Dallas Mavericks and Brooklyn Nets head coach Avery Johnson as possible long-term candidates to replace Shaw. Other potential replacements include Golden State Warriors associated head coach Alvin Gentry, former Warriors head coach Mark Jackson and former Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro.
For his part, Kroenke informed Wojnarowski he will work with Connelly in devising a plan to identify their next head coach.
The Nuggets have lost 19 of their past 21 games. This includes a franchise record 10 straight home losses, per Yahoo! Sports. Shaw is the third head coach to be dismissed this season, following the Sacramento Kings' Michael Malone in December and the Orlando Magic's Jacque Vaughn in February.
During his two-year stint in Denver, Shaw amassed a 56-85 (.397) win-loss record, per the Nuggets' official website.
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