Mark Heisler of the Los Angeles Daily News has suggested that the Los Angeles Lakers’ likeliest successor is current interim Golden State Warriors head coach Luke Walton. Walton would be a great choice.
Walton, as Heisler mentions, was loved by Lakers fans during his tenure there from 2003-2012. He wasn’t by any means the best player during his career, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t get anything out of it. Not many players have a career as long as Walton’s, and even fewer win a title. Walton was a part of the Lakers’ 2009 and 2010 NBA championship teams.
Luke’s done a great job with this Warriors squad, and while Steve Kerr has still had a hand in coaching the team during his absence, anytime you can go 34-2 is extremely impressive (and quite honestly unprecedented). The team has essentially kept the same look since he has taken control, although there have been moments where Walton has learned what moves to make, and which moved to not make in certain in-game situations.
Walton’s youth as a coach would also be an advantage for a Lakers team that is building for the future. The team has budding stars in D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle, and could wind up having a top-three pick in the next NBA Draft which is sure to be loaded with even more talent. Walton could relate to these young guys. He’s not that far off from his playing days, and could perhaps better understand them and cater to their needs than an older coach would. The NBA has a much different culture today than it did even just 10 years ago, and Walton has been around to see that change as a player.
It should also be comforting to those in Lakerland that Walton has been mentored by Steve Kerr, who only has one year of coaching experience himself but has acted as a mentor to Walton. The Warriors are a different breed than other teams in the league, possessing a unique set of talents, and wouldn’t necessarily be able to be coached by just anybody, contrary to popular belief.
Walton hasn’t held anybody’s progress back under his belt, and that’s pretty darn impressive. The Warriors’ locker room has also appeared to be pretty calm, and that’s another difficult thing to do with a group of extremely-talented guys who are also young and garnering the attention of the world.
Walton’s playing time under Phil Jackson has also certainly served him well, as it can’t necessarily hurt to have played under one of the greatest coaches in the sport’s history. He knows what it takes to be a Laker, he knows the Lakers’ atmosphere, and he knows the modern game.
The Lakers have young talent that need to be used in the right fashion, and if his short experience at the helm for Golden State is any indication, surely they could do much worse than Luke Walton.