The Los Angeles Lakers' coaching search is well underway, with the team asking for and receiving permission to have meetings with Luke Walton and Ettore Messina so far, while also planning to sit down with former Cleveland Cavaliers head coach David Blatt.
There is still no word on when the front office plans to meet with Messina and Blatt, but according to team reporter John Ireland, the Lakers have already met with Walton and it "went well." While hosting his daily radio show with Steve Mason, "Mason and Ireland," Ireland gave an update on the Lakers' search for Byron Scott's replacement.
"Let me tell you the latest on the Lakers' coaching search, because I think it's good, particularly if you're a fan of Luke Walton. They've met, they've talked, it went well," began Ireland. "I personally, and nobody is telling me anything this is my personal feeling in talking to both sides. I think this is going to hinge on whether or not Steve Kerr feels he can complete his contract. He's in year two of a five-year deal. His back is very bad. He missed the first 43 games this season, he's continued to leak spinal fluid and is in a lot of pain."
One of the most widely assumed reasons Walton may not take a head coaching job this summer is that uncertainty over Kerr's health, because if Kerr had to step down, then Walton would inherit a better situation in Golden State than any of the other available coaching openings. Ireland sounds like he thinks things look promising on that front:
"I think if you're a Lakers fan, you should take it as a very good sign that the Warriors let Luke go do this interview, because if Kerr knew 'you know what I'm leaving. My health is bad, I'm not going to be able to finish my contract,' they wouldn't even let Luke go. But I think what Kerr has told them is 'look, I'm feeling better, I think I'm going to be able to complete my contract, I'm not going to hold you back.' An average assistant coach salary is about $300,000 a year, a head coach salary is between six and seven million. And I think the fact that the Warriors have granted permission for the Rockets and the Lakers to talk to Luke Walton is a sign that they're willing to let him go, and I think, just connecting dots, that if he gets offered the Rockets' job, the Knicks' job, the Kings' job, and the Lakers' job, that he would take the Lakers' job. I said before that I thought it was 60 percent Luke, 30 percent Ollie, 10 percent other, I'd now up it to 70 percent."
Kerr, one of the league's nicest and most well-liked figures, doing better health-wise is obviously good news on a human level aside from affecting the Lakers' coaching search, but the always plugged-in Ireland thinking it bodes so well for the Lakers' chances with Walton is promising for those hoping Luke will be the team's next head coach.
It sounds like the Lakers have only had one meeting so far and no decisions have been made on either side, but it appears the Lakers are wasting no time in a coaching search they hope to have wrapped up before free agency.