Well, this is awkward.
There was really no debating who the award would go to; Golden State Warriors head coach Luke Walton was announced as the Western Conference’s Coach of the Month on Tuesday. However, per league rules, the historic 19 wins the Warriors have kicked off the season with will go to the official head coach, Steve Kerr.
The NBA issued a statement earlier in the day reiterating that Kerr remains the head coach of record for Golden State. However, the league said Walton was eligible for the monthly award.
“Additionally, any team head coach, interim head coach or acting head coach is eligible to be recognized with league coaching awards. Therefore, Warriors interim head coach Luke Walton is eligible for NBA Coach of the Month,” the league said in its statement.
That means Walton has more NBA awards as a coach, than wins.
He becomes the fourth coach in Warriors history to win the award, Kerr won the award twice previously in January and March of this calendar year. Don Nelson also won the award twice during his tenure in Golden State; in February 1989, and again in April 2007. George Karl won the award in March 1987.
Walton took over in the interim just two days into training camp way back in August, and has since guided the Warriors to the best regular season start by any team in league history. How much has he guided them you ask? Under Walton, the Warriors have outscored opponents by an average of 15.3 points per game, while also leading the NBA in points per game (115.3), assists per game (29.4), 3-pointers per game (13.2), overall field goal percentage (.491) and 3-point percentage (.431).
Not too shabby.
Some of Walton’s are not at all surprised about his success and transition from player to coach in the NBA. Kobe Bryant, who played with Walton in Los Angeles, spoke candidly about the 35-year-old’s abilities as a bench boss.
“I told him he was the next Phil [Jackson], because he was an average player with a messed-up back,” Bryant said. “I used to rib him all the time about that, but honestly, he always had a really brilliant mind. He understood flow and tempo and spacing and how to manage a team the right way. So I couldn’t be any happier for him. He looks very comfortable in that role. If you’re going to have a mentor, Phil’s a pretty good one.”
I’m no basketball expert, but I’m pretty sure being compared to one of the game’s greatest coaches by one of its greatest player’s is quite the compliment.
Kerr has been sidelined since August, suffering from the aftereffects of two offseason back surgeries. There remains no official timeline for his return, Tuesday, it was reported he was “feeling better, but still suffering from migraines.”