The Kings and Luke Walton have agreed to terms for him to be the next coach, a source tells @TheAthleticNBA. The length of his deal will be in line with that of Kings GM Vlade Divac, running through the 2022-23 season.— Sam Amick (@sam_amick) April 13, 2019
Walton’s four-year deal comes on the heels of a tumultuous end to the season for his former franchise and his new franchise. The Lakers, long rumored to fire Walton at season’s end, got a surprise resignation from president of basketball operations Magic Johnson, and it was unclear what that meant for Walton’s job security.
But almost immediately afterwards, Walton and the Lakers mutually parted ways.
Meanwhile, the Kings fired coach Dave Joerger, despite him leading the squad to a 39-43 record - their best win total since the 2005-06 season.
Walton was put in a tough position in Los Angeles, as he was tasked with rebuilding the young franchise in 2016, only to have the team shift gears last year when they signed LeBron James and a hoard of questionable veterans.
While the former player’s offensive schemes haven’t impressed many, he’s established himself as a players’ coach who gets his teams to play strong defense. That should make him a good fit in Sacramento, where he’ll be leading promising youngsters like De’Aaron Fox, Marvin Bagley III, Buddy Hield, and Bogdan Bogdanovic.
Walton got his first coaching opportunity as an assistant with the Warriors under Steve Kerr in the 2014-15 season. He took over head coaching duties during the team’s historic 2015-16 season, while Kerr was absent with health concerns. Walton impressed mightily while overseeing the team’s record 24-0 start to the season.
Naturally, Kerr has been a firm advocate for Walton. Upon hearing that his former colleague had been fired, Kerr criticized the Lakers, while also praising the Warriors for not being dysfunctional.
Steve Kerr on the Lakers firing Luke Walton: “They’re losing one of the best human beings in the league.” Here’s his full, strong backing of Walton. pic.twitter.com/nNo6uOS1i1— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) April 12, 2019
“In this job, as a coach in the NBA, you are 100% dependent on your circumstances - the strength of your organization, the momentum, the unity,” Kerr said. “Everything has to be in good order. If it’s not, as we have witnessed with the Lakers, then there’s going to be casualties and usually the coach is the first one. They’re losing one of the best human beings in the NBA, they’re losing a guy who knows the game as well as anybody I’ve ever met.”
It’s good to see Walton bounce back on his feet with the Kings, where he’ll be reunited with Harrison Barnes, and still get to face the Warriors four times a year.