After firing former head coach Byron Scott, the Los Angeles Lakers recently named Luke Walton as their head coach for the 2016-17 season. Walton was one of the top coaching targets for teams after experiencing tremendous success as the assistant coach of the Golden State Warriors, leading them to a 39-4 start in the absence of head coach Steve Kerr.
But possibly even more interesting than Walton's story as a coach on the record-breaking Warriors team is the story of how Luke became a coach in the first place.
Entering Walton's ninth season in the NBA as a member of the Lakers, the NBA faced a lockout that forced players to find other activities to fill their downtime. Walton chose to sign on as assistant coach to former Arizona teammate and then University of Memphis head coach, Josh Pastner.
Walton admitted then that he had signed on “to find out how much I'm into coaching,” unknowing that it would be the start of a budding career following his days playing in the NBA.
“He recruited, he coached, dealt with it all,” Pastner said. “And I think he loved every second of it.”
The former Laker echoed these statements in a separate interview last year, stating “It gave me the bug to coach, but not so much in college. There are a lot of responsibilities in college coaching that you don't have to worry about in the NBA.”
But it wasn't all success for Luke right away. According to Pastner, for their first exhibition game in 2011 Walton had forgotten to check the schedule and was still hanging in the locker room.
“Not only do we have to work out the kinks for the players, we have to work out the kinks for the coaches,” remembered Pastner.
As the new head coach for a team that just faced its worse win-loss record in franchise history, Walton is aware of the challenges he faces going forward.
“I know it’s going to happen,” Walton said of losing games, “but there’s always something you can do and losing’s a great motivator for doing more.”
With a young core of players and more additions expected in free agency, there's certainly excitement within the basketball world to see what Luke can do for the Lakers in the years to come.