Luke Walton was wearing the purple and gold of the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday. By Monday, he was wearing a golf shirt that sported the logo of the Sacramento Kings.
That’s how quickly Walton’s job changed, and even in the crazy world of NBA coaching, it all seemed odd.
But it was perfectly normal for Walton and Kings general manager Vlade Divac, who spoke to the media at press conference Monday to introduce Walton as the Kings’ new coach.
“I think it’s a great group that Vlade’s put together here,” Walton said. “I’m very excited about getting to know these guys, getting to coach them. And obviously, Sacramento’s always had one of the best crowds in the NBA. We’re ready to get to work.”
The Kings finished 39-43 this season, again failing to reach the playoffs despite a talented, young cast that includes De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield and Marvin Bagley III.
But there was also some drama between former coach Dave Joerger and former assistant GM Brandon Williams, and Divac made the call to immediately dismiss both after the season and move in a new direction.
When Walton parted ways with the Lakers, Divac was pretty sure he had his man.
“I’m excited that we’re going to build this team together and go to the next level,” Divac said.
The Kings don’t have the luxury of a lottery pick this season. It now belongs to the Boston Celtics. So they will have to to build from within.
Walton seems to think there is already plenty with which to work.
“One, we gotta have the right type of culture. People have to love coming in here for practice every day. Two, we gotta work,” Walton said. “We gotta work. Every team in this league has talent. From what I’ve seen of this core group of players, they’re on the right track.”
Walton compiled a 98-148 record in three seasons with the Lakers. Before that, he was an assistant on Steve Kerr’s staff with the Golden State Warriors.
So Walton has experienced both the best and the worst of the NBA.
Still, the Kings felt were clearly the right fit at the right time. Forget the fact the time it took to land the Kings gig barely gave Walton enough time to blow a goodbye kiss to LA.
“It happened very fast, but I’m passionate about coaching. I love the game of basketball,” Walton said. “I’ve known Vlade for a lot of years now. So when this opportunity came and he reached out, he showed me the type of support, and laid out his vision … it was identical to how I saw, one, the game, and two, what this Kings team was about.
“It’s been fast, but it’s been very exciting, too.”