Dub Nation will be back to booing Luke Walton at Oracle Arena next season.
The Los Angeles Lakers announced Friday that they have reached an agreement with current Golden State Warriors assistant Luke Walton to be their next head coach. Walton will take over the reins once the Warriors’ season ends.
“We’re excited to bring Luke back to Los Angeles, where we feel he’s going to start an outstanding coaching career,” Lakers GM 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.”
Walton will be returning to a franchise he’s very familiar with. He was drafted 32nd overall by the Lakers in the 2003 NBA Draft. Walton went on to play nine seasons in the purple and gold, winning back-to-back championships in 2009 and 2010.
Walton retired after the 2012-13 season and spent one season as a player development coach with the Los Angeles D-Fenders of the NBA Development League. Walton joined the Warriors as an assistant prior to last season.
After Alvin Gentry left at the end of last season to be the head coach of the New Orleans Pelicans, Walton became the lead assistant to head coach Steve Kerr. When Kerr was forced to take an indefinite leave of absence at the beginning of the season, Walton suddenly found himself at the controls of a team that was attempting to repeat as champions.
Walton was more than up to the task. He led the Warriors to an NBA-record 24-0 start and compiled a 39-4 record as interim head coach. Although Walton won’t be credited with those historic achievements, he won the coach of the month award for games played in October/November and finished tied for eighth in the coach of the year balloting.
“We are thrilled for Luke,” Warriors GM 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.”
“I’m incredibly happy for Luke,” Kerr said. “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 will be taking over a Lakers team that has won a total of 65 games in the last three seasons. The franchise will also be without Kobe Bryant for the first time in 20 years. Walton does have a young and talented nucleus to work with in Jordan Clarkson, D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle. The Lakers were one of the nine teams to beat the Warriors this season.
Walton will certainly experience many lows in the next year or two or three, but don’t expect him to change who he is. During Kerr’s coach of the year press conference this past Tuesday, Myers praised Walton for the job he did and his character through it all.
“You did an unbelievable job,” Myers told Walton. “I kept waiting for you to change with your success because I’ve seen so many people change with success. I kept waiting for you to become someone else because you were getting adulation and you are obviously making your own mark. But I never saw for one second you wavered from your character and who you are and your support of Steve and knowing that you were just holding down the fort. I just think that’s tremendous. That is such a rare quality to be unaffected and to stay who you are.”
Walton, 36, will become the youngest active head coach in the NBA. He will be the 26th head coach in Lakers’ franchise history and the 22nd in the Los Angeles era.