Reports came out tonight that Luke Walton has accepted the job as Head Coach of the Los Angeles Lakers. Walton has served as an assistant under Steve Kerr for the past couple of years, gaining a lot of praise for his performance coaching the Warriors while Kerr was absent. Walton was coaching when Golden State went on their 24 game winning streak.
There has been a lot of speculation surrounding Walton's future employment prospects. It was reported that Walton talked with Phil Jackson about taking over the Knicks coaching job. I had my doubts that Walton would leave the Warriors bench this year, but the news of his signing in LA was exciting, but not entirely unexpected.
In a story that made plenty of headlines this week, Bill Walton advised his son not to take the Lakers position, and it's hard to blame a father for advising his son not to take a job in what seems to be a toxic work environment.
The Lakers have won just 38 games in the last two seasons. Byron Scott was the worst possible person to coach the rookie and second year players that will make up the core of this team. Now it will be up to Walton to repair the damage that has been done.
I don’t want to get carried away with this hiring, but if nothing else it is proof that the Lakers front office are capable of making rational basketball decisions. The praise for this hire has been alarmingly unanimous with NBA writers around the internet. Walton was the number one name floating around when it came to possible head coaching hires and the Lakers got him.
The Lakers! The same team that hired Byron Scott not too long ago.
There's going to be a huge learning curve going from being an Assistant Coach for one one of the best run organizations in the league to taking over a team that is the midst of a Game of Thrones-esque family power struggle for control. Not to mention the disparity in talent between Golden State and LA.
As of this writing the dollar amount has not been reported, but I hope Walton was rewarded handsomely for taking over this rebuild, because there's going to be a lot of work to do, and Lakers fans are not exactly known for there patience when it comes to the Purple and Gold being contenders.
I wrote a little bit yesterday about the Celtics being able to rebuild their franchise on the fly by stock hoarding draft picks and getting the right coach in place to take over a young team. Walton spent two years studying under Steve Kerr, the second best coach in the NBA, a disciple of the All Knowing, Greg Popavich. Walton has a good understanding of how the modern NBA works on offense and defense, and had a couple of months to learn how to balance players minutes - something that is vital in today's game, yet so many head coaches in the league still struggle with this so much.
Walton has also been praised as being a great players coach. The guys in Golden State swear by him. It's going to take a deft touch in repairing the broken chemistry in the Lakers locker room, and having a head coach that can have some reliability with the guys in the locker room will be a new, sorely needed development.
With a team as bad as the Lakers, it’s all about making one good move at a time. They have a ton of cap room, and a chance at a top three pick. Let’s see if they can get the pick right, and hopefully with this hiring they can draw some actual NBA level veterans who can help their young core grow. I’m not expecting any super stars to head to LA right away, but the next couple of years is all about building the brand back up to a point where they are able to land stars, hopefully while doing a better job of grooming their young players.
This is asking a whole lot out of Jimmy Buss - and/or whoever is calling the shots now - but hopefully these last couple of years of being a laughing stock has made it clear he/she needs to turn things over to people who know what they are doing.