The Los Angeles Lakers and Luke Walton reached an agreement today on a multi-year contract for Walton to become the next Head Coach of the team, it was announced by General Manager Mitch Kupchak.
Walton, a former Laker player, will begin his new duties at the conclusion of the Golden State Warriors season.
"We're excited to bring Luke back to Los Angeles, where we feel he's going to start an outstanding coaching career," said Kupchak. "He's one of the brightest young coaching minds in the game and we feel fortunate that he'll be leading the on-court future of our team."
Walton, 36, will be the 26th head coach in franchise history, and the 22nd in the Los Angeles era. Although he is considered one of the league's top coaching prospects, Walton has relatively little head coaching experience.
Walton is currently in his second season as an Assistant Coach with the Warriors. Earlier this season, he posted a 39-4 record as interim head coach in Steve Kerr's absence, including a 24-0 start, the best start in NBA history.
“I’m incredibly happy for Luke,” said Warriors Head Coach Steve Kerr. “As we witnessed earlier this season, he has all of the intangibles necessary to be an outstanding head coach in this league, including a terrific understanding of the game the ability to communicate with a wide range of people. He’s certainly ready for this opportunity and I’m confident he’ll do a great job with the Lakers once our season is complete.”
Walton's interim role in Golden State constituted the entirety of his experience as a head coach. Walton additionally served as a player development coach for the Los Angeles D-Fenders in the 2013-14 season. He also served as an assistant coach at the University of Memphis during the 2011 NBA lockout.
Given the poor track record of owner Jim Buss' coaching hires, it is not certain whether Walton really is part of an intelligent vision for the future, or if the Lakers are simply panicking and hiring the next great flavor of the month in coaching circles. After all, Walton was quickly hired after two other top coaching candidates, Tom Thibodeau and Scott Brooks, were recently signed by other franchises.
In fairness, the Lakers also were very familiar with Walton since his playing days on the team.
Walton enjoyed a 10-year NBA playing career (2003-13), averaging 4.7 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.3 assists in 564 regular season games with the Lakers and Cleveland Cavaliers. Originally selected with the 32nd overall pick in the 2003 NBA Draft, he was a member of championship teams with the Lakers in 2009 and 2010.
Unlike his stint with the Warriors, Walton will inherit a young team still learning how to win in the NBA. A big part of his job undoubtedly will involve player development.
"We are thrilled for Luke,” said Warriors GM Bob Myers. “This is a tremendous opportunity for him to return home and serve as head coach for one of the most storied franchises in sports. Luke has done an incredible job during his two-year stint with our team and has played a significant role in our success, including last year’s championship and again this season under some very unique circumstances. We are certainly going to miss Luke after we conclude our playoff run this season, but we wish him the very best with the Lakers.”
By Staff of TheDailySportsHerald.com and news services