Forget the awful, losing past: Luke Walton’s the new sheriff in town who will save the Lakers.
At least that was kind of Walton’s message of optimism Tuesday as he met with a perennially skeptical media.
Walton promised to restore a winning culture on a once-proud team that has staggered through three dismal seasons and must now cope with the loss of its longtime superstar, Kobe Bryant.
Speaking at an introductory news conference at the team’s El Segundo headquarters, Walton said he can’t address the issues that have plagued the team in recent years, only what he can do in the future.
“What I can affect is what’s going to happen next year and the year after that,” he said. “And we’re going to put, you know, our stamp on the culture that we want.”
Walton said he envisions a franchise that will be exciting for both the players and fans alike.
“Our players are going to like coming to practice every day,” he said. “We’re going to play a brand of basketball that the L.A. fans will appreciate. We’re going to compete. All of these things going forward with my vision of how we’re going to do things is what I can control.
“I don’t know how that’ll be different from the previous two years because I wasn’t in here for those years.”
Walton’s hiring was announced on April 29, but it was agreed that he would remain as an assistant coach with the Golden State Warriors until they completed their season. The Warriors season ended Sunday with a 93-89 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 7 of the NBA Finals.
The Lakers had a franchise-worst 17-65 record in the 2015-16 season and has missed the playoffs for three consecutive seasons for the first time in franchise history.
Walton spent two season as an assistant coach with Golden State. He had a 39-4 record as the Warriors interim coach to begin the 2015-16 season when Steve Kerr was unable to coach because of back problems, including a 24-0 start, the best in NBA history.
Walton, a son of Basketball Hall of Fame member Bill Walton, began his coaching career as an assistant coach at the University of Memphis during the 2011 NBA lockout. He was a player development coach for the Los Angeles D- Fenders, the Lakers NBA Development League affiliate, in the 2013-14 season.
The 36-year-old Walton played for the Lakers from 2003 through 2012 and was a member of their 2009 and 2010 championship teams.
“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,” general manager Mitch Kupchak said in announcing Walton’s hiring to replace Byron Scott.
—City News Service