Luke Walton has made it no secret how much he loves his fellow University of Arizona alumni. So much so that two of the five men on his coaching staff with the Los Angeles Lakers went to U of A. It used to be three until the New York Knicks swooped up Jud Buechler last summer.
Walton still hasn’t found a replacement for Buechler, and it’s not for a lack of trying. Over the summer, Walton recruited another former Wildcat to join his coaching staff: Richard Jefferson.
When Jefferson temporarily retired in 2016, there were rumors that he asked Walton to join his coaching staff, but Jefferson told the crew at EPSN’s “The Jump” that such a description of events is not exactly how it went down:
“So we’re on a fantasy football chain and there’s a bunch of us and somebody said ‘Hey Luke, are you going to put Richard on your staff’ and he said ‘No, because if he retires, he’s an idiot and I can’t have idiots on my staff.’ That was the exact frame. I never asked Luke for a job.”
Jefferson played two more seasons before officially hanging it up after the 2017-18 season. Apparently this time Walton was respectful of Jefferson’s decision, because Walton offered him a spot on his coaching staff shortly after, and as Jefferson revealed in an interview on “The Crossover NBA Show with Chris Mannix,” he nearly took it:
“I was really, really close to taking an assistant coaching job with the Lakers... Luke offered me a position on his staff and I thought that would be great. Obviously I thought I could help bridge the relationship with him and ‘Bron, I thought I could help the young guys.
“Also, you get to be on the court for one more year even though you’re not playing. You’d get to practice, you’d get to work out with the guys, you get to help the young players and I thought that would be fun. Mainly because it was with a crew of people that I know, but unfortunately I kind of just decided to start this media grind.”
Jefferson is now an analyst with the YES Network, where he has done an excellent job covering the Brooklyn Nets and is also doing work for ESPN, among other media obligations. Jefferson spent seven seasons playing with the Nets when they were in New Jersey and is fan favorite.
However, Jefferson admitted he does have some regret about passing up the opportunity to coach the Lakers and their exciting roster:
”Coaching is tough and the only reason why I would have coached with Luke is because of the great staff that he’s put together. Jesse Mermuys, Miles Simon, he just has a really, really good staff. Brian Shaw over there. And then for me, I would’ve been able to live in a home, I would’ve been coaching with someone I respect.
“I like that they have a ton of young wings that I felt like I could contribute a little bit to them, and then obviously ‘Bron being over there and knowing the type of environment that he likes to create, I thought I could help that. So there was some real serious consideration and I’m bummed that I got talked out of it multiple times by people that I respect, and it sucked.”
For what it’s worth, there’s still a vacancy on Walton’s bench. If Jefferson decides that the broadcasting booth isn’t for him, I’m sure Walton’s offer still stands. Of course, that’s assuming Walton is back with the team next season, which is far from a guarantee.