The Nuggets’ problems go well beyond the court and starts with the most basic fundamentals – hygiene.
This season, Shaw is forced to do what parents do on a daily basis; he has to plead with and sometimes scold his children for not cleaning up after themselves. It’s part of the job description for a parent. It’s an unfortunate reality for Shaw who gave a surprisingly candid interview on 104.3 The Fan.
He’s constantly reminding his players to keep their lockers clean. And begging them to tidy up their mess following team flights so the flight attendants don’t have to do it.
These are basics you would expect from grown men. But not the crew Shaw inherited. Many times, they’re sloppy and lazy off the court, and that’s been a direct reflection of their play on it.
Forget about winning games, many of these guys are probably having trouble making their beds. And Shaw is tired of his lot of unmade beds.
You hear his frustration following games and it’s understandable. But at some point, this is going to affect Shaw more than his millionaire players who’ve got guaranteed contracts.
Shaw is an old-school guy who looks young enough to be carded at a bar. He subscribes to the John Wooden school of coaching, teaching each guy how to tie their shoes on the first day of practice.
It’s this attention to detail that can permeate into other things like boxing out during a free throw or making the correct pass. But Shaw’s message is getting lost because he’s understandably frustrated. And it’s only going to hurt him and this franchise in the long term.
His candor is refreshing, but his players likely snicker at him when he’s in the room and privately chastise him when he’s out of it. No player, no matter how unprofessional, will tolerate public comments like this for the long haul.
“It’s unfortunate. It’s a nationally televised game, and as a staff, we have to beg guys to give effort when they play.”
- Shaw, following loss to Chicago last Saturday
“I’m at a point where I don’t care. If we only have guards on the bench and our two big men aren’t getting it done, we’ll play with five guards. I wake up and I come in here and I hope it’s a day where somebody wants to come in here and put our team on our back and play an inspired brand of basketball. But to be honest with you, I don’t know if I’m going to get that every day.”
- Shaw, before Monday’s game versus Sacramento
“Even if everybody does what we want them to do, even if everybody plays the best game they could possibly play, it’s still going to be tough for us to win games, being honest.”
- Shaw, last week before the Nuggets lost to Phoenix
“I don’t have a problem when we do what the game plan is, but at least give the game plan a chance to work; that’s what’s tough to watch, when you go out there and everybody just kind of goes on their own and does their own thing.”
- Shaw, on how the team was playing in November
The coach is spot on with everything he’s been saying, but who wants to play for a dude who publically undresses his players when things don’t go his way, or more accurately, the right way?
The NBA is a small enough fraternity where a bad reputation spreads like a rash. And Shaw is laying the foundation of what he wants from his team and what he’s going to say like it or not. The problem is that no one will want to play for a guy who acts like a den mother on the team plane and talks to the media about it. If you thought it was tough to recruit a superstar to Denver, even the most marginal free agents are going to treat Colorado like a fly-over state.
Shaw isn’t wrong, but he’s clearly not doing something right.
Many wondered why it took Shaw so long to get a head-coaching job and maybe other general managers feared what they’re now seeing in Denver. Yes, Shaw has the pedigree to be a great head coach; after all, the dude has three titles as a player and two as an assistant coach. But like Patrick Roy famously said to Jeremy Roenick, Shaw’s players are likely thinking, “We can’t hear you even though none of us have rings plugging our ears.”
Shaw has been tuned out. And he must find a way, and quickly, to change his message before no one ever wants to play for him – here or anywhere else.
Eric Goodman hosts “Drive Time with Goodman and Pritchard” every Monday through Friday from 4p-6p on Mile High Sports Radio (AM1510 | FM 93.7). You can also follow Eric Goodman on Twitter at @ericgoodman.