Perhaps it wasn't inevitable that Luke Walton would end up becoming the L.A. Lakers coach, but it's hard to say that the move is especially surprising once he started interviewing for coaching vacancies and Byron Scott was relieved of duty.
With Kobe Bryant retiring, the Lakers are a young team that the young Walton can grow with, which certainly has its merits; as former Warriors associate head coach Alvin Gentry might tell you, working for a championship team also has merits, but that's neither here nor there at this point.
Anyway, best of luck to Luke Walton — he'll have time to develop his roster that coaching a more competitive team wouldn't afford him. And Sean Deveney of the Sporting News has already kickstarted the discussion around whether Walton can lure young talents Harrison Barnes and Festus Ezeli to L.A. with him, which would give him a good start in trying to build cohesion and implement his system.
But coaching the Lakers would be an enormous opportunity for Walton, and he does fit as a potential recruiter of free agents. The Warriors have two key free agents this summer, forward Harrison Barnes and center Festus Ezeli, and either or both could come available if Golden State makes a big push to sign Durant. The Lakers would have them as targets should Durant pass.
But the bigger concern for the Warriors is finding themselves in the position of needing to replace an associate head coach who earned a promotion to a head coaching position for the second year in a row. And while the fear last year was that the departure of Gentry would hurt the Warriors' offense, Walton leaves a different kind of hole on the bench, as described by Marcus Thompson of the Bay Area News Group.
Whoever they get will need to be able to contribute to the Warriors complex offensive system. Also, there is this: the Warriors need someone who can fill in as head coach.
Kerr is not over his issues, though he said Friday on our Warriors Plus/Minus podcast. God forbid a set back that requires Kerr to take time off.
Walton was more than just a basketball mind. He is a confidant for players. He is a calming yet youthful presence on staff. He is Kerr’s protege, someone Kerr feels extremely comfortable with. Finding a replacement for al (sic) that will be tough.
Thompson also offered a brief rundown of candidates to replace Walton, which boiled down to names that most of us could probably guess: former Cleveland Cavaliers coach David Blatt, current Warriors assistant Jarron Collins, current player development consultant Steve Nash, and Charlotte Hornets assistant (as well as former Warriors assistant) Stephen Silas.
Of those mentioned, Collins is probably the most obvious choice if the Warriors choose to promote from within again. Clearly, Collins' familiarity with the system and players is a factor, but more importantly he's reportedly considered one of the top young assistants in the league right now in his own right — Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN listed Collins as one the six head coaching candidates to watch earlier this month.
Collins would give a team all the attributes of a grinder, but with 10 years of playing experience as a consummate locker room guy who has demonstrated as an assistant coach an aptitude for connecting with players.
Luke Walton is among the hottest prospects for a permanent head job (his stint as interim head coach in Oakland disqualifies him from our list), but those in the know say that Collins' was one of the big brains behind the Warriors' early-season run during Steve Kerr's absence.
Some of those who have worked with Collins regard him as one of the quickest studies they've seen come through the league in recent years. They describe a young coach with a knack for schemes and coverages, but who has a quiet intensity beneath his steady demeanor
And Collins being promoted might make a lot of sense for both parties: if promoted, Kerr would again have someone he's familiar with who is also familiar with the system and players if he needs to take time off; for Collins, he gets his turn as one of the highest profile assistants in the league and an opportunity to possibly showcase his ability to lead if Kerr needs time off.
Whatever the Warriors decide, they've done enough to this point to trust whatever decision they make — it's a new feeling, but after creating a contender as rapidly as they have, they've earned all the benefit of the doubt in the world.
(S/O eran5 for the poll borrowed from this FanPost)