Luke Walton Officially Announced as Kings Head Coach After Parting with Lakers

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorApril 15, 2019

Los Angeles Lakers head coach Luke Walton during an NBA basketball game Sunday, March 24, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

Former Los Angeles Lakers head coach Luke Walton didn't have to wait long to find a new job.

Walton was officially announced as the head coach of the Sacramento Kings on Monday as the replacement for Dave Joerger, who was fired after the 2018-19 season.

"I have known Luke for many years, and I am so excited to welcome him and his family to the Sacramento Kings," general manager Vlade Divac said in the team release. "I look forward to his leadership on the court as we work to build a winning culture for many years to come."

Walton went 98-148 in three seasons as the Lakers coach. He unofficially earned a 39-4 record as the Warriors' interim coach in 2015-16 while Steve Kerr recovered from back problems.

The 39-year-old didn't enjoy a successful stint in L.A., but he faced significant obstacles throughout his tenure. Rachel Nichols of ESPN outlined some of them on The Jump:

The Lakers were a young, rebuilding team during Walton's first two years running the show. They signed LeBron James as a free agent in 2018, which led to lofty expectations last season.

However, those were not met.

The quartet of James, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma and Lonzo Ball only played with each other for 23 games, largely because of injuries. The team accrued a 15-8 record in those games and a 22-37 mark otherwise.

The Lakers also endured off-court drama in the form of a never-ending barrage of trade rumors involving New Orleans Pelicans big man Anthony Davis.

Ingram, Kuzma, Ball and others were thrown into those rumors, and Kuzma admitted the chatter affected the team, per Harrison Faigen of Silver Screen & Roll:

Harrison Faigen @hmfaigen

Kyle Kuzma on the Lakers' conversation with Magic Johnson, and how they all need to be professionals even if they're in trade rumors (via @SpectrumSN): https://t.co/QiFAI0CKOD

Furthermore, the Lakers front office made some questionable decisions in hindsight, most specifically letting productive power forward Julius Randle and center Brook Lopez walk. Randle averaged 21.4 points and 8.7 rebounds per game for the Pels, and Lopez dropped 12.5 points per game as the 60-22 Milwaukee Bucks' starting center.

Those two could have helped make up for lost production with the aforementioned quartet sidelined. Instead, the Lakers offense struggled all year en route to finishing 24th in efficiency, per ESPN.com.

Walton has a big backer in Kerr, who has led the Warriors to three NBA championships:

Anthony Slater @anthonyVslater

Steve Kerr on the Lakers firing Luke Walton: “They’re losing one of the best human beings in the league.” Here’s his full, strong backing of Walton. https://t.co/nNo6uOS1i1

Oddly enough, Walton walks into a situation similar to what he faced three years ago when he was tasked with guiding a young Lakers team.

He's now in charge of a younger Kings squad that featured a few budding stars in 21-year-old De'Aaron Fox and 20-year-old Marvin Bagley, who were both top-five NBA draft picks.

Sacramento is on the rise and looks ready to become a perennial playoff contender after improving by 12 wins last season.


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