After once helping the Lakers to back-to-back NBA championships with his superior passing, Luke Walton will try to hand out an assist to his former team in another way.
Walton and the Lakers agreed to a multi-year deal to become their head coach. The 36-year-old Walton replaced Byron Scott, who was not retained after finishing with a combined 38-126 record in the past two seasons. Walton will still serve as one of the Golden State Warriors’ assistant coaches until their playoff run ends.
“We’re excited to bring Luke back to Los Angeles, where we feel he’s going to start an outstanding coaching career,” Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said in a statement. “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.”
The Lakers interviewed Walton in Oakland on Thursday night, according to a league source familiar with the situation. The Lakers had plans to interview Spurs assistant coach Ettore Messina at some point next week between Games 2 (Monday) and 3 (Friday) of their Western Conference semifinals series against Oklahoma City, according to a league source. Those plans were then cancelled following Walton’s interview.
The Lakers received permission from the Golden State Warriors earlier this week to interview Walton, who has served as an assistant coach for Steve Kerr in the past two seasons. Those talks could not take place, however, until the Warriors ended their first-round series against the Houston Rockets.
“I’m incredibly happy for Luke,” Warriors head Coach Steve Kerr said in a statement. “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.”
Golden State eliminated Houston in Game 5 on Wednesday and do not play Game 1 until Tuesday in the Western Conference semifinals against the Portland Trail Blazers in Oakland.
The reason for the interest the Lakers and Walton may have for each other seems obvious.
Walton has strong ties to the Lakers after playing as a key reserve (2003-12) and helping them to consecutive NBA titles (2009, 2010). Walton also guided the Warriors to a 39-4 record, while Steve Kerr recovered from back surgery. After completing stints as an assistant for the University of Memphis (during 2011 NBA lockout) and player development coach for the Lakers’ Development League affiliate (2013-14), the 36-year-old Walton could become a relating presence to the team’s young roster.
“We are thrilled for Luke,” Warriors general manager Bob Myers said in a statement. “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.”