Lakers get permission to interview Warriors' Luke Walton for head-coaching job

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OAKLAND, Calif. – The Los Angeles Lakers have requested and received permission to speak with Golden State assistant Luke Walton about their head-coaching position, Warriors coach Steve Kerr said Wednesday. Kerr added that Walton will speak with the Lakers once the team completes its first-round series with the Houston Rockets.

Luke Walton coached the Warriors while Steve Kerr was sidelined for the season's first 43 games. (AP)
Luke Walton coached the Warriors while Steve Kerr was sidelined for the season's first 43 games. (AP)

Walton is in his second season as an assistant with the Warriors and filled in for Kerr through the first 43 games this season, leading the team 39 victories. Kerr received Coach of the Year honors on Tuesday after leading Golden State to an NBA-record 73-9 mark, but general manager Bob Myers took time to acknowledge Walton’s contributions during the news conference.

"This guy deserves a lot of credit," Myers said, then asked Kerr, "Can you give him, like, a shoe from the trophy, or something?"

Kerr's complications from offseason back surgery thrust Walton into an unexpected role, coming off the Warriors' first championship in 40 years. With Alvin Gentry leaving for New Orleans, Walton moved one seat over to become lead assistant. During a coaching retreat that Kerr planned but was unable to attend because of his health, Myers said he teamed up with Walton for a croquet match to pass along the news. "I said, 'Hey man, you might be coaching this team.' I remember [having] a little bit of trepidation about it. And I know Luke had a some, but [he] did an unbelievable job."

Walton’s success in leading the Warriors to a record 24-0 start immediately made him one of the hottest, young head coaching candidates. Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak's interest in Walton was expected, given Walton's ties with the organization. Walton played with the Lakers for nine of his 10 seasons in the NBA, winning two championships as a key reserve.

Walton is the frontrunner to start the search, and Kupchak is working off a list of 10 preliminary candidates, including former New York Knicks and Houston Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy, former Cleveland Cavaliers coach David Blatt, Connecticut coach Kevin Ollie and San Antonio Spurs assistant Ettore Messina, sources told The Vertical's Adrian Wojnarowski.