Some would say the Los Angeles Lakers made a bold move by hiring Luke Walton as their new head coach. Walton only had a fraction of interim head coaching experience with the Golden State Warriors. He landed the most glamorous and challenging head coaching position in the NBA after being an assistant coach for two years.
Walton’s exposure to and collaboration with what the Warriors created these past two years has a lot to do with culture. Golden State has great talent, but their collective atmosphere is what set them apart. They feed off of their trust and chemistry and they want to play the right way as a unit on both ends of the floor.
In Walton’s introductory press conference as the Lakers head coach, he spent a good amount of time talking about culture.
“We’re going to put our stamp on the culture that we want,” Walton said at his introductory press conference on Tuesday. “It’s going to be joy. Our players are going to like coming into practice every day. We’re going to play a brand of basketball that the L.A. fans will appreciate. We’re going to compete.”
Competing is all Lakers fans can hope for, coming off of two horrid consecutive seasons, seeing Kobe Bryant go, and moving on with a new young core.
“I don’t know how that’ll be different from the previous two years because I wasn’t in here for those years,” Walton said. “But yes, there’s gonna be an emphasis on the culture going forward, and that’s going to be up to us and the staff that we bring in to hold the guys accountable and make them want to be a part of that.”
Walton has hired Brian Shaw onto his coaching staff as a lead assistant. He used terms like freedom, fun, and joy to describe his preferred coaching style and atmosphere.
“To me, you succeed as a coaching staff when you can give your players more and more freedom,” Walton said. “Even though that may look like you’re doing less coaching, that means they’re taking ownership for what they’re doing. And when they’re taking ownership they get mad when they mess up.
“You have to make it fun for them. Basketball’s meant to be a game of joy. And if you can provide that environment and make guys want to come in and bust their tail every day in practice and work harder because they’re enjoying it, then they look forward to coming in the gym every day.”
This is why Lakers fans can be excited about Walton. Adding a no. 2 draft pick on Thursday will add to the young talent core, and the way Walton wants to play should be encouraging. That’s not to say the Lakers will become the Warriors overnight. Walton and his team will continue to grow together. If it goes Walton’s and the Lakers’ way, they’ll have a lot of fun doing it.