By hiring Luke Walton, the Los Angeles Lakers are on the path to restoring hope in a franchise that has been stuck in neutral for the past three years.
Bringing in Walton checks off practically all the boxes on the Lakers’ wish list for finding a new coach: he’s young but still has vital experience, can connect with players and has strong ties with the team and city.
Calling Walton young is an understatement. At 36, he’ll in fact become the youngest active coach in the NBA.
That’s often a double-edged honour because it usually means the coach has little to no prior experience.
In Walton’s case, however, he not only comes with a valuable grounding, but has earned it by sitting on the bench of arguably the greatest team in league history.
The current Golden State Warriors assistant coach has been one of the guiding hands for the team in their ultra-successive run since the start of the 2014-15 season.
After winning a championship last June, the Warriors began their new campaign without head coach Steve Kerr, who took a leave of absence following back surgery to repair a ruptured disc.
In stepped Walton as the interim coach and despite a target painted squarely on Golden State’s back and the lofty expectations, the Warriors shot out of the gates with 24 straight wins. By the time Kerr returned, Walton already had the team humming along and sitting pretty with a 39-4 record.
Of course, when you have the reigning MVP in Stephen Curry, a super-talented roster and an organisation so well-run from the top down, coaching becomes easier. But there’s more to coaching a transcendent team than just rolling the balls out.
Walton could have botched the situation, but he instead handled it perfectly. It may not have been a full season at the helm, but quantity isn’t always the best determinant of future coaching success in the league.
While Walton’s youth helps him relate to players, his laid-back personality is one of his best attributes. Being the leader of men in the NBA isn’t the most conventional task and more often than not necessitates open-mindedness – which is one, but definitely not the only approach that Walton has which wasn’t shared by recently-fired Lakers coach Byron Scott.
Luke Walton was a champion as a player and an asst. coach and he will bring that championship mindset & attitude to the @Lakers organization— Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) April 30, 2016
On top of it all, much to the delight of the team’s brass and fan base, Walton is a ‘Laker’.
During his playing days, he was drafted by the franchise in 2003 and spent his first eight-plus seasons with LA while being part of the two championship runs in 2009 and 2010.
That familiarity with the organisation, especially ownership and general manager Mitch Kupchak, is exactly what the Lakers were hoping for and should result in a more cohesive symbiotic relationship.
While all these factors in favour of Walton are characterisable as intangibles, he should also bolster the Lakers’ play on the court.
It was nearly impossible for the team’s style of play to be more backward in the modern NBA under Scott, who put too much emphasis on isolation-ball by a low-efficiency player in Kobe Bryant, didn’t allow the youngsters,
especially D’Angelo Russell, enough freedom and maybe worst of all, showed an inexplicable aversion to the 3-point line.
New head coach Luke Walton: "We’re trying to set the foundation for how we want to play." https://t.co/Ma8pMuu1Cu— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) May 1, 2016
Based on his time with the Warriors, whose style of play was the antithesis of the Lakers’, Walton should at the very least impart a different mentality to fix those issues.
He won’t have close to the same talent that’s been at his disposal in the Bay, but he should be able to turn the Lakers into a more progressive team.
It’s been proven the Hollywood aura and tradition can only take the franchise so far in terms of attracting star names. Walton’s hiring is a step in the right direction to bring the level of play closer to the heights of their prestige.
Know more about Sport360 Application