OAKLAND (AP) — The Los Angeles Lakers received permission from the Warriors to interview top assistant Luke Walton for their coaching vacancy.
Golden State coach Steve Kerr said Wednesday before Game 5 of the playoffs against Houston that Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak contacted Warriors GM Bob Myers, who said Walton could interview once the first-round series is done. The Warriors held a 3-1 advantage in the best-of-seven series going into Wednesday.
“Mitch has called Bob and we’ve told Mitch he’s perfectly welcome to talk to Luke as soon as this series is over and we have a little break,” Kerr said.
The 36-year-old Walton, who won two championships during his nine seasons playing for the Lakers, guided defending champion Golden State to a record 24-0 start this season while filling in for Kerr when the coach was on a leave of absence following complications from two back surgeries. Overall, Walton was 39-4 while Kerr was out, and he finished eighth in Coach of the Year voting.
“It is impressive for an assistant coach. I think he should have been higher,” Golden State power forward Draymond Green said.
Walton has not wanted to become a distraction during Golden State’s quest for a second straight title when it comes to speaking about his own coaching future. For months, he has been considered a strong candidate to be in the Lakers’ plans if they made a change.
Los Angeles fired Byron Scott on Sunday night.
Scott coached the two worst seasons in the 16-time NBA champion franchise’s history, going 38-126. In Kobe Bryant’s disappointing farewell season, the Lakers finished with the NBA’s second-worst record at 17-65 this season, losing four more games than in their previous franchise-worst season in 2014-15.
Walton quickly earned the trust and respect of the Warriors players — not to mention Kerr, who promoted him to the top assistant chair this season after Alvin Gentry departed to coach New Orleans.
At Kerr’s Tuesday press conference for NBA Coach of the Year, Myers looked at Walton and said, “This guy deserves a lot of credit, too.”