The Los Angeles Lakers have their new head coach, and he's a face familiar to the fan base.
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The Lakers announced Friday night that Golden State Warriors lead assistant coach Luke Walton has reached an agreement with the franchise to become its next head coach. Walton will replace Byron Scott, who had two team options remaining on a four-year deal and was told he would not return last weekend. The Warriors gave the Lakers permission to meet with Walton following the conclusion of their first-round series with the Houston Rockets on Wednesday night.
Earlier today, the Los Angeles Lakers and Luke Walton reached an agreement on a multi-year contract for Walton to become the next Head Coach of the team, it was announced by General Manager Mitch Kupchak. Walton will begin his new duties at the conclusion of the Golden State Warriors season.
"We're excited to bring Luke back to Los Angeles, where we feel he's going to start an outstanding coaching career," said Kupchak. "He's one of the brightest young coaching minds in the game and we feel fortunate that he'll be leading the on-court future of our team."
His Warriors colleagues also issued a congratulatory statement (via David Aldridge):
"We are thrilled for Luke,” said Warriors GM Bob Myers. “This is a tremendous opportunity for him to return home and serve as head coach for one of the most storied franchises in sports. Luke has done an incredible job during his two-year stint with our team and has played a significant role in our success, including last year’s championship and again this season under some very unique circumstances. We are certainly going to miss Luke after we conclude our playoff run this season, but we wish him the very best with the Lakers.”
“I’m incredibly happy for Luke,” said Warriors Head Coach Steve Kerr. “As we witnessed earlier this season, he has all of the intangibles necessary to be an outstanding head coach in this league, including a terrific understanding of the game the ability to communicate with a wide range of people. He’s certainly ready for this opportunity and I’m confident he’ll do a great job with the Lakers once our season is complete.”
Walton was considered one of the top coaching candidates on the market, particularly for a young, rebuilding team like the Lakers. He served as interim head coach for the Warriors to open the season while Steve Kerr recovered from complications caused by offseason back surgery and went 39-4, including a record 24-0 start. Those wins were not credited to his name, but the Warriors made him part of this week's press conference celebrating Kerr's Coach of the Year award.
Walton has strong Lakers ties. He played nine of his 10 NBA seasons with the franchise as a pass-first small forward alongside Kobe Bryant and served as a player development coach for their D-League franchise, the Los Angeles D-Fenders, in 2013-14. Walton moved from that job to his current position with the Warriors the following offseason and was promoted to lead assistant after Alvin Gentry became head coach of New Orleans Pelicans last spring. Golden State will now have to fill that position for the second-straight season, and there's a good chance the next guy will become a hot coaching candidate, too.
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