The Lakers are completing the beginning steps of their coaching search by pursuing someone both familiar by name and intriguing by potential.
The Golden State Warriors have granted the Lakers permission to interview assistant Luke Walton once their first-round series ends against the Houston Rockets.
Walton’s schedule could become relatively more flexible if the Warriors eliminate the Houston Rockets in Game 5 of their first-round series in Oakland on Wednesday.
If that happens, the Warriors would not play again until the Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers finish their first-round series that is currently tied, 2-2. If the Clippers and Blazers settle their series after Game 6 on Friday, the Warriors would face the winner beginning on Sunday. If the Clippers and Blazers play a Game 7 on Sunday, the Western Conference semifinals would push back to May 3.
If if the Warriors lose Game 5, however, Golden State would play Game 6 in Houston on Friday and Game 7 in Oakland on Sunday if necessary.
Golden State generally allows its assistants to interview for head-coaching positions even before the NBA playoffs end so long as it does not interfere with their current job. For example, the New Orleans Pelicans were granted permission to interview former Warriors assistant Alvin Gentry in mid May last year before the Warriors’ eventual title run.
Walton quickly became an attractive option for a few reasons. He has strong ties with the Lakers as a former reserve (2004-12). Walton also guided the defending NBA champion Warriors to a 39-4 record this season as interim coach while head coach Steve Kerr recovered from offseason back surgery.
During the 2011 NBA lockout, Walton also served as an assistant coach at the University of Memphis. Once his 10-year NBA career ended after the 2012-13 season with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Walton became a player development coach for the Lakers’ Development League affiliate, the D-Fenders. That soon parlayed into an assistant with Warriors once Kerr became the head coach in 2014-15.
Walton has mostly modeled his coaching philosophies after Kerr, former Lakers coach Phil Jackson and former Arizona coach Lute Olson. Yet, Walton has remained open minded toward embracing aspects of the triangle offense, while also embracing the increased premium on 3-point shooting.
“I’m a big believer in getting out and running and spacing and then also the idea of what I learned from Phil is the overall flow and pace of the game,” Walton said in an interview last fall. “You have to attack in waves and everybody is in sync to where one guy moves and all four other guys react. There’s a fine line between how fast you want to play and also playing to a rhythm and a pace that allows you to be successful if the fast-break isn’t there.”