OAKLAND — Normally, if an NBA move has yet to be officially consumated, Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr would talk around it, but still find a way to offer meaningful comment. He would not, however, act as though the deed was done.
When asked on Saturday, before his first-round playoff opener against the Los Angeles Clippers, about multiple reports that Luke Walton had agreed to a deal to coach the Sacramento Kings, Kerr didn’t hesitate.
“Happy for Luke,” Kerr said. “That was quick.”
On news of Walton’s mutual separation with the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday, Kerr said that Walton is “one of the best human beings in the NBA … who knows the game as well as anyone I’ve ever met.” Now, Walton get a fresh start with a team and an organization that seems to be a very good fit.
According to Sam Amick of The Athletic, Walton and the Kings agreed to terms on a deal that would keep him in Sacramento through the 2022-23 season. That followed a report from Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN that reported that generalmanager Vlade Divac offered the team’s vacant head coaching spot to Walton, who spent the last three seasons with the Lakers.
Walton and the Lakers agreed to “mutually part ways,” according to multiple reports, just three days after the stunning resignation of President of Basketball Operations Magic Johnson, who announced his decision in an impromptu press gaggle before the team’s season finale against the Portland Trailblazers.
One of Kerr’s top assistants at Golden State from 2014-15 to 2015-16, Walton took over for the ailing Warriors head coach when he had to miss 43 games during the team’s record-setting 73-win season due to complications from back surgery. Walton’s 39-4 record in Kerr’s stead was one of the reasons he became one of the hottest young head coaching candidates in the NBA.
With a young roster to start, thrown into disarray by the arrival of LeBron James last offseason, Walton never seemed to get a solid footing in an organizationo with seemingly no cohesive or coherent vision. He went 98-148, and never made the playoffs.
“In this job, in the NBA, you are 100-percent dependent on your circumstances — the strength of your organization, your momentum, the unity,” Kerr said on Friday. “Everything has to be in good order, because if it’s not, as we’ve witnessed with the Lakers, there’s going to be casualties, and usually, the coach is the first one.”
The Kings have a fast, young, athletic roster built by an owner — Vivek Ranadive — who has been, according to multiple reports, obsessed with the Warriors. A former minority owner with Golden State, Ranadive has tried to construct his roster to mirror the Warriors’ strengths, resulting in a team that a coach like Walton is ideally suited to run.
Under Dave Joerger, the Kings were the third-quickest-paced team in the league, and Sacramento took Golden State to the brink during their four meetings over the course of this season. Joerger was let go two days ago, after the Kings stumbled down the stretch, and narrowly missed out on a playoff spot for the first time in 13 years, going 39-43. They have exciting pieces going forward, including Buddy Hield, who Ranadive considers the next Stephen Curry, along with De’Aaron Fox, forward Marvin Bagley III and exciting rookie Harry Giles.
“It’s a great opportunity,” Kerr said. “It’s a really nice young team. I thought Dave Joerger did a tremendous job there in the last few years, and they’ve established a really good foundation. It’s a hell of an opportunity for him.”