Luke Walton says that he spoke with Phil Jackson about accepting a coaching position with the Knicks while Jackson was courting current Golden State coach Steve Kerr. But Walton hasn't talked to Jackson since Kerr turned down the Knicks and accepted a head coaching position with the Warriors.
Per Begley, on Friday, Walton revealed some details on ESPN Radio's The Herd with Colin Cowherd, saying, "I've talked to Phil a bunch; thought about different things and I've talked to him in the past about coaching. He's told me he thinks that I'll be a great coach someday."
Begley writes that, "sources told ESPN.com earlier this week that [Kurt] Rambis and Walton are more likely regarded as potential assistants for the eventual coach."
That would be a good start for Walton, who has no previous head-coaching experience. Walton did serve as a player development coach for the Los Angeles D-Fenders this season, giving him recent experience from the development league.
The 34-year-old played for the Los Angeles Lakers from 2003-2012, giving Knicks president of basketball operations Phil Jackson plenty of exposure to him. Walton finished his career with the Cleveland Cavaliers, playing for the team during the 2012-13 campaign.
Never an elite athlete or primary contributor, Walton may well be better-suited to coaching than he ever was to playing the game. Walton averaged double-figure points in just one of his 10 seasons.
The New York Daily News' Bernie Augustine speculates that a Jackson-Walton alliance of some sort just might make some sense:
Maybe Jackson sees a little of himself in Walton, who, unlike Jackson, has outstanding basketball pedigree as the son of Hall of Famer Bill Walton and someone who has played for a pair of Hall of Fame coaches in Lute Olson (Arizona) and Jackson. In his 2013 autobiography, 'Eleven Rings,' Jackson praised Walton for his high basketball IQ, willingness to learn and, most importantly, grasp of the triangle offense.
Three candidates who will thus receive consideration from Jackson, sources said, are Luke Walton and Tyronn Lue -- former players under Jackson who have already begun their coaching careers -- as well as Oklahoma City Thunder guard Derek Fisher -- if Fisher elects to stop playing after this season as he has hinted.
By all accounts, Fisher seems to be the favorite out of that bunch. But we shouldn't ignore the possibility that Jackson will change directions and look for a more experienced option—even if all signs seem pointed toward a younger candidate at the moment. Who'd put a surprise move past Phil Jackson?
At the moment, it doesn't sound like Walton will be that surprise, but he could certainly wind up on New York's staff in some capacity. Those decisions will likely wait until a head coach is first selected. From there, it reasons that Jackson will look for one or two veteran assistants in the event he hires a newcomer like Fisher.
There may nevertheless still be room for Walton. The Zen Master is looking for past associates whom he can trust, and Walton is certainly that.
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