There is the emotion of Udonis Haslem, Tyler Hansbrough, LeBron James and Danny Granger in this Miami Heat-Indiana Pacers playoff series. Theirs are the visceral reactions to a contentious NBA playoff series that could end as soon as Thursday’s 8 p.m. Game 6 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
And then there is the quiet, measured demeanor of Pacers assistant coach Brian Shaw as he warms up players before games, smile ever-present, hugs at the ready for familiar faces on the opposite side of this simmering blood feud.
And yet the facade is a fib. It has to be.
Because no one in this best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal series could possibly find themselves with an equal range of emotions.
Get the FREE Miami Hoops iPhone and Android app
There was the warmth being back to the city he introduced to playoff basketball in 1992.
But also was the chilling, awful reality of what he endured before his final season as a savvy playmaking guard with Heat.
There is the uncertainty of the next step, mentioned as a leading candidate in the Orlando Magic coaching search.
But also the comfort of getting to spend this postseason as an embraced assistant to Pacers coach Frank Vogel after unceremoniously being purged from the Los Angeles Lakers’ coaching staff following Phil Jackson’s departure last spring.
What there isn’t is any bitterness, despite being bypassed as Jackson’s potential successor, despite winning three championships with the Lakers as a player and two more as a Jackson assistant.
“Once I moved on, I moved on and I didn’t look back,” he says during a break in this series, which his Pacers now trail 3-2. “I had been to the playoffs plenty of times before, before the Lakers, so I understand it’s part of the business, the way things are.”
After interviewing for the Warriors’ vacancy that instead went to Mark Jackson last summer, he signed on as associate head coach to Vogel. Most consider it a pit stop for the affable 46-year-old.
In addition to Orlando, he has been linked to the coaching vacancy with the Charlotte Bobcats, and could draw interest from the Portland Trail Blazers or Washington Wizards.
“That will all take care of itself in due time,” he said. “It’s flattering when your name comes up, but I know firsthand that doesn’t mean anything.
“Last year everybody expected or assumed I would be stepping in for Phil Jackson in Los Angeles, which obviously didn’t happen. So I don’t get caught up in that.”
For now, there still is time to reminisce about three of the most enjoyable seasons of his career, when he helped push a rag-tag former expansion group of Rony Seikaly, Grant Long and Alan Ogg to the playoffs for the first time, scoring the first postseason basket in Heat history, a layup off a Long steal against Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls on April 24, 1992.
“Obviously I started out in Boston, but I had some very fun times with the Heat,” he says, having been acquired in a trade with the Celtics for Sherman Douglas. “I still see [Heat assistant coach] Keith Askins and all the people that were there when I was there. So I reminisce about being young and being carefree.”
At least that’s how his Heat career started.
And then, on June 26, 1993, it turned awful, horrific.
In the Nevada desert just outside of Las Vegas. In a single-car crash that claimed the lives of his father, mother, sister. The news delivered in a devastating phone call.