From the 24th floor of the Embarcadero Center with floor-to-ceiling windows offering a perfect view of the San Francisco Bay, Chat Sports Founder and CEO James Yoder shared an intimate conversation with David Shaw that was open to the public for the cost of $10, and that admission fee even included complimentary beers. As I imbibed my Angry Orchard (hey, don't judge!), I learned a number of new things about arguably the most successful Stanford coach in recent history.
Here are 10 facts you didn't know about David Shaw:
(Quotations from Shaw below are lightly edited for clarity and readability).
1. David Shaw didn't want to be a football coach.
It's well known that David Shaw grew up the son of NFL Coach Willie Shaw, but it was also because of that upbringing that a young Shaw didn't want to be a coach. Because his father was a football coach, young David Shaw would move from city to city as his father found new coaching positions.
Shaw shares: "I grew up watching [my father coach] and, quite frankly, I didn't want to be a part of it. I had no desire to coach. I was going to do something else. But when I graduated, I got a chance at Western Washington University to start a career. For me, it was just going to be a job. A one-year thing to see how it goes. And I loved it. I enjoyed it. They were great to me there and I learned a lot. First day on the job I knew that was what I was going to do."
2. Steve Stenstrom was the first person to believe that Shaw would be the head coach of Stanford
Steve Stenstrom holds the Stanford record for most passing yards (10,911), which ranks him well above second place Andrew Luck (9,430). Not only did Stenstrom throw to a wide receiver named David Shaw, but he also was the first one to recognize that Shaw had the talent to be head coach of Stanford. Shaw explains that even when he was a just coach's assistant making $5,000/year, Stenstrom believed in him: "[Stenstrom] said ‘Stanford's the perfect job for you. You're going to be the head coach at Stanford. You understand this place. You know the ins and outs'.
"Now, 15 years later it's true."
3. To David Shaw, Head "Coach" is a misnomer
Although we refer to the position as a head coach, very little of a head coach's job is actually coaching; instead, Shaw hires an extraordinary staff who can be trusted to do great things for the Stanford players. As for Shaw's typical day: "I don't spend much of my time coaching. I'm now a big-time manager. There are a lot of times when I'll have no time at all to talk football. I'll actually have to go talk to the media, go talk to my boss, go talk to alumni. Spend time doing things off the football field."
4. Shaw believes that a head coaching job can't be earned
Shaw has a strong history of success, but still insists that nobody can earn a head coaching job in football. Instead, head coaching positions are something that are given. And for every one person who received a head coaching job, there were many more who earned it but were never given a chance. He saw this with his father: "My dad at one point was one of the best defensive coordinators in the nation, and was this close multiple times to being a head coach. What that taught me was that you can't earn a head coaching job; someone has to choose you. All you can do is: do the best that you can at the job that you have. There are times when some guys rise fast and some guys don't, but there's no rhyme or reason to it."
5. Shaw views Stanford's tough admission standards as a recruiting advantage
David Shaw gave a TED Talk on this very topic, arguing that the Stanford model proves that student-athletes who are fiercely competitive in the classroom are also fiercely competitive on the gridiron. In the Chat Sports' talk, he reemphasized his belief that tough admissions standards are actually advantageous to a football team: "For us, our focus is more narrowed. Our pool is smaller. Who we're looking for, we get to know them a lot better. Instead of going after 150 guys or so, for next year's class, we're already down to about 30 or 25 guys. The other advantage to me is: imagine the locker room that we put together every year. They're all bright both on and off the field, they're all athletic, they're all tough minded, they're all team-oriented. I can't put a value on it. So, if everyone in my locker room is bright, smart, motivated and a team player, we have a chance to beat anyone that we play."
6. When Shaw recruited on the East Coast, recruits were confused by the Stanford logo.
Astute Stanford fans may have noticed that this year, all Stanford athletics teams were wearing a new logo for the first time. The traditional block-letter "S" has been upgraded with a tree in the middle of it. David Shaw explains that the genesis of this was that East Coast recruits were confused by the Stanford logo: "I walked around with a block S, and the first thing they'd say was:
'Is that NC State? ... Syracuse? Syracuse!'
"And I'd say 'No, it's Stanford.'
"'NO! STAN-ford! In CAL-I-FOR-NIA!"
"So, between [Athletic Director Bernard] Muir and Nike, they went through a lot of things to ask 'What can we do to distinguish our 'S'?' And there was an old 'S' that a lot of people saw with a green tree in the middle of it, which a lot of people didn't like, but some people did like. I give all the credit to Mr. Muir who decided to make the tree white; Cardinal and White are our school colors. So, now we have a unique block 'S' that is not just football. This is the first year that it is all of our sports."
7. Shaw is committed to Stanford, and does not plan to leave.
Although Shaw's name is frequently floated in the media whenever a high-profile coaching position opens up, he has never taken an interview with another team, and does not plan to either: "The coaching rumor mill goes crazy every year. I can say without hesitation and 100% honesty that since I've taken this job, I have not interviewed for another job from anybody else, have not talked to anybody about any jobs. And I don't plan to either."
8. Who is Stanford's biggest rival? Shaw believes that it's half the conference!
There's no simple answer to who Stanford's biggest rival might be: "If you asked our team, you're going to get a bunch of different answers because there will be some that will say Cal. It's in line with our proximity and it's our biggest, longest-standing rivalry. Some will say it's Oregon because we're battling every single year for the Pac-12 North. A couple say ‘Coach, it's got to be USC.' For the last few years, Stanford-USC has been some of the better games of the year in college football. Exciting, back-and-forth, last-second victories. Wild finishes. Great players, and we have highly-drafted guys on both sides. I also have some say UCLA. So, for us we feel like half of our conference is our biggest rival."
9. If Shaw could play any team in college football, it would be Dabo Swinney's Clemson.
Shaw clearly holds Dabo Swinney in his highest regards; he shares that if he could play anyone in college football, it would be: "A dear friend of mine: Dabo Swinney at Clemson. I think it would be a blast. I absolutely love that man, his family and his program, what he believes in; we approach the game the right way about being mentors for the young people that we coach. Clemson would be an exciting game, but I think that the only way that will happen is in a bowl game."
10. Shaw would choose Christian McCaffrey as Stanford's best replacement for Steph Curry
If Steph Curry were out for the next Warriors' playoff game and had to be replaced by a Stanford football player, Shaw recommends that the Warriors look to Christian McCaffrey: "I'll never forget going to the home visit [with McCaffrey], and we stopped by basketball practice before we went to his home. He was a senior in high school and to watch the young man play basketball is just like watching him play football. The guy's an assassin. He may not be the biggest guy out there, but he jumps up and dunks the ball with ease. And he makes three-pointers, mid-range jumpers, he's got ridiculous handles. I'd love to see him play basketball."
Shaw quickly added that while he'd like to see McCaffrey play basketball: "Not until he's done with football."
Follow us on Social Media: