Luke Walton has been sitting on one of the league’s warmest/hottest seats basically since Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka took over for Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak in 2017. When LeBron James arrived last summer, that seat took on the temperature of one of those Hibachi grills.
As the Lakers went through one of the more disappointing and frustrating seasons in recent memory, Walton looked increasingly likely to be shown the door this offseason, but he still believes in his future with the organization, as he told Bill Oram of The Athletic:
“I fully expect to be coaching this team again next year,” he told The Athletic on Tuesday night.
Walton doesn’t really have anything else to say here. No matter how he might feel behind closed doors, publicly, he still has to represent himself well for whatever next job he might be up for if and when he departs from the Lakers. But it’s probably not a great sign that even Lue felt the need to contact Walton to clear the air regarding all the rumors floating around the two former Lakers.
It’s hard not to feel bad for Walton to a certain extent. Yes, he has his issues as a head coach: His offensive system can be best described as a particularly rambunctious Kindergarten nap time, the coaching staff he hired had some gaping holes and he was pretty slow on the uptake as new data was presented to him.
But this is still somebody’s career we’re talking about, and Walton has been forced to coach out the rest of this season despite having almost no one expecting him to come back next year.
There is a good chance that both sides here walk away from this experience with the potential to grow from it, though. For Walton, he’ll have to rethink some stuff about how he handled his time as Lakers coach. For the Lakers, though, they’ll have to ask themselves whether they ever put Walton in a decent situation to be successful.
If both sides are honest with themselves with those questions, they stand a chance to rebound relatively quickly. If not, well, I guess there’s always the next opportunity.