LAS VEGAS, Nev. — Former Arizona Wildcats basketball great Luke Walton does a good impression of his father's voice, but will he follow the footsteps of Hall of Famer Bill Walton and become a broadcaster instead of a coach?
The younger Walton is in his first season out of basketball after a 10-year career in the NBA which followed a five-year stop in Tucson to play for Lute Olson and the Arizona Wildcats.
"I'm keeping my options open right now," Luke Walton said Friday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena during his induction ceremony for the Pac-12 Hall of Honor. "I'm doing some coaching right now for the Lakers' D-League team, the Defenders.
"I've never done anything but play. I don't know the direction that I want to go. I figure I will do some broadcasting and do some coaching. I will do some appearances around town and just find which one I have the most passion about. Basketball has been so fun because I love the game of basketball. Whatever is next, I'd like to have a similar passion for."
Bill Walton is a loquacious, eccentric broadcaster for ESPN who primarily announces Pac-12 games. He waxes poetic about the Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley and Joan Baez often during broadcasts.
The big redhead, as he was called during his 13-year NBA career, and his straight-and-narrow broadcast partner Dave Pasch make for an entertaining pair. They light-heartedly disagree often and Pasch tries (and fails) to keep the elder Walton always in step with the game.
"I love it," Luke Walton said when asked to critique his father's broadcasting style. "It's better now that I'm not playing because he used to do our game and just crucify my teammates and then I'd
have to hear from their mothers.
"I think it's entertaining. He loves it. He does it his own way. I called an Oregon-Oregon State game earlier this year [for Fox Sports 1] and I had never done it so I was asking for advice. The advice was watch another game and listen to how they talk about the play but just make sure it's not one of the games your dad does. They said, 'We love what he does but we don't want you to do it his way.' I find it very entertaining."
Bill Walton is in Las Vegas to attend the Pac-12 tournament as a spectator (ESPN is not broadcasting the event this year) and to take in his son's induction into the conference's Hall of Honor.
Luke Walton was asked by reporters what his father told him about his induction. He broke into his best Bill Walton, a deep, slow monotone voice: "Luke, I am the proudest, proudest father in the world. I am so proud. We will be there for anything you need."
"It was something along those lines and it went on for three or four more minutes," Luke Walton said with a laugh. "It was kind of the same message over and over. We had lunch today. He's happy. He's beaming. He's very excited."
The younger Walton grew up with the sport of basketball, watching his father play in the NBA. He then played for Olson, a Hall of Fame coach, at Arizona. He followed that with the experience of winning two NBA titles with the Lakers under Phil Jackson.
Add it up: Son of an NBA Hall of Famer and player for two of the best coaches in the game's history. Shouldn't Luke Walton be a coach? He served as an assistant coach at Memphis during the 2011 NBA lockout under Josh Pastner, himself a former Arizona player and assistant coach.
Luke Walton is as indecisive about his career path as he is about who is the better coach—Olson or Jackson.
"They're different," Luke Walton said. "Phil Jackson probably was the greatest coach in the history of professional sports and NBA basketball. He was amazing at getting players to mold together and to play for that one common good and manage a team.
"Lute Olson, he was so good with the detail of the game that sometimes in practice you'd get annoyed with him because he would just stop and correct every little mistake. After the months and years of being with him, you didn't make those mistakes again. So I was blessed to play for one of the greatest NBA coaches and one of the greatest college coaches of all time. They had different styles but both unbelievable coaches."
Luke Walton likes what he sees from his alma mater this season. The fourth-ranked Wildcats are primed for a No. 1 seed in the upcoming NCAA tournament.
"I love this year's team because they're the best defensive team I've seen in college in a while," he said. "When Brandon Ashley went down, that hurt a lot. They were really struggling to score after that, but I think they kind of picked up the pace a little more and they are scoring more points.
"At any level, when you have a solid defense you can count on every night, you're in every game even if you're having a bad shooting night. That's what you want out of a team. I think they are going to make a deep run and hopefully bring us a second national championship."