The first NBA head coaching gig Luke Walton got also just happens to be one of the (if not the) most sought-after jobs in the entire industry. The downside to that being someone’s first opportunity is that there is nowhere to go but down if they lose that job. For far too much of this season, rumors of that happening to Walton have swirled around him and the Los Angeles Lakers.
It’s all part of the territory, though, and Walton knew that going in, as he told Ramona Shelburne of ESPN:
“It’s the best job in the world and I love the challenge that we have,” Walton told ESPN in a recent interview. “It’s challenging, it’s hard, it’s sleepless nights. But it’s also awesome.”
Walton’s work ethic should never be questioned, as we’ve covered before. It’s easy to work that hard when you don’t see it as work. There are frustrations with every job, and the media circus of the last week or so is almost assuredly at the top of Walton’s list of annoyances as Lakers head coach — even if he claims he doesn’t pay attention to it — but again, he knew what he was getting into:
“Look, I knew this was going to be hard,” he says. “But , s---, that’s part of the excitement. If it was easy, it wouldn’t be as fun of a challenge.”
I’ll repeat this for the umpteenth time: Walton was not hired by Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka. He was not brought in at the request of LeBron James or Klutch Sports. This is not a roster he put together. And yet, it’s up to him to make this team and situation work, or do all he can to — even while the fan base and some of those in the organization second guess his abilities.
This isn’t to paint Walton as some kind of victim, either. He’s been far from perfect throughout all of this as well. His coaching staff is lacking and the players he was tasked with developing have stagnated in their growth. We’ve yet to see his offensive system be anything but, well, offensive. If he wants to keep the best job in the world, as he puts it, he’ll have to address these things as soon as possible.
Walton will have to maintain this positive attitude if for nothing else than for the sake of his own sanity. He’ll have to keep working just as hard as he has, but perhaps a little smarter.
The biggest test of this season will take place over the course of the next 20 games or so. The Lakers will be without LeBron James for at least the first two. Everyone involved will have to do all they can to remain anywhere near the playoff picture. If they fail that challenge, Walton won’t be the only person who loses their dream job.