When the Los Angeles Lakers hired Luke Walton as head coach last summer, the former Golden State Warriors assistant came with promises of relationship building with his players and beautiful ball movement, among other things.
The Lakes made slow progress this season on the latter front, but Walton has certainly fulfilled the former pledge. Just ask his players, as the media did during their exit interviews Thursday.
"I feel like he is the definition of a player's coach,” said Lakers guard Jordan Clarkson, and it’s not just team’s gaggle of younger players who Walton meshed with.
“I’ve played for a lot of good coaches. If he wasn’t a good coach, I probably wouldn’t say anything. I wouldn’t put him down, I just wouldn’t say anything,” said Corey Brewer, who didn’t know what to expect when the Lakers acquired him at the trade deadline. "Luke is great.”
Those two players aren’t the only ones who think so. The Lakers were asked for their impressions of Walton again and again during the day-long exit interview process, and they were all open in their love for Luke:
JR on Walton. "You truly know that he cares about you and this team … so much room to be negative, and he was never that. Always positive."— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) April 13, 2017
Randle on playing for Luke Walton: “It was amazing. He just came in every day and brought an energy and a vibe that I’ve never experienced."— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) April 13, 2017
Though Luke is a positive guy, he often was hard on Randle. Julius: "I don’t think it bothered me because he cared."— Mark Medina (@MarkG_Medina) April 13, 2017
Brewer on Luke Walton: "Luke’s great. He’s a great coach, man. He knows (how to talk to players) and he knows X’s and O’s."— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) April 13, 2017
Thomas Robinson on Coach Walton: "For this crop of young players, there's nobody better for them than Luke."— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) April 13, 2017
Thomas Robinson: "Even when I wasn’t playing, Luke (Walton) gave me attention as if I was a starter.”— Serena Winters (@SerenaWinters) April 13, 2017
Nick Young: “Luke (Walton) is one of the best coaches for this new era of basketball, communicates with the players great."— Serena Winters (@SerenaWinters) April 13, 2017
Clarkson on Luke: “He’s the definition of a player’s coach. At practice, and him texting us off the court and seeing how we’re doing."— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) April 13, 2017
Tyler Ennis: "I just loved playing for him (Luke Walton) and I love playing for the Lakers."— Serena Winters (@SerenaWinters) April 13, 2017
Ennis said Luke made him feel very comfortable by establishing a relationship, giving him freedom to take shots & to call plays— Mark Medina (@MarkG_Medina) April 13, 2017
"At the end of this season I can sit here and say that he gave me a fair opportunity," Tarik Black says of Luke Walton— Tania Ganguli (@taniaganguli) April 13, 2017
"We got to see a new coach blossom as a head coach," Tarik Black on this season.— Tania Ganguli (@taniaganguli) April 13, 2017
Black on Walton: "A huge thing with coach Luke is be brought me confidence.” Black said he was resilient after last year, but not confident.— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) April 13, 2017
Ingram was complimentary of Luke Walton, like many teammates who already met with media after exit meetings. Called him "player's coach."— Mike Bresnahan (@Mike_Bresnahan) April 13, 2017
It’s not yet clear how many of these players will still be on the roster next season, but one thing is clear: Whoever the Lakers are suiting up will probably love playing for Walton, too, even if the man himself said that’s not his primary concern:
Hearing that all the players have stated excitement in playing for him, Luke said it’s key they embrace the culture he’s trying to set.— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) April 13, 2017
So, Walton isn’t trying just to make friends, but it’s important to him the players trust him and know he’s there for them.— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) April 13, 2017
Regardless of Walton’s intentions, it’s undoubtedly good news for the Lakers organization and their fans that they have a head coach that players want to play for sitting on their bench.