It wasn’t that long ago when Luke Walton was focused on returning to the Los Angeles Lakers next season and working on goals for that. Then, on April 12, the Lakers changed directions and decided to let him go. Walton’s phone rang and when he picked up his agent told him that the Sacramento Kings were the team that was “very interested.” He wanted to get back to them right away, not just because he thinks highly of the talented young group of players on the Kings roster, but also because of how much respect he has for general manager Vlade Divac.
Meanwhile, Divac, who had just let Dave Joerger go on April 11, waited just five minutes to call Walton’s people after hearing of his dismissal in Los Angeles.
Within a day, the deal was done, Divac and Walton would be reunited as “teammates” (they played together on the 2004-05 Lakers). Divac was interested in Walton as his head coach during the Kings last coaching search, but Walton was unavailable at the time.
Now, Divac got his guy.
Walton and Divac appear to have a strong connection and approach to basketball. As for what the hiring means for the Kings on the floor next season, it is too early to say, but the goal is to continue to build on the fast pace that was established this season with De’Aaron Fox.
Throughout his press conference, and in an interview after it ended, Walton mentioned several things about his coaching style and plans that help provide at least some clues as to what is ahead.
Below are some things he said about his coaching philosophy.
- He acknowledged that today’s game is about spacing and three-point shooting.
- Coaching under Steve Kerr with the Golden State Warriors is a big influence on how he sees today’s game.
- He said the great coaches he played for focused on attention to detail and holding people accountable to the standard of play that they wanted as a coach.
- The Kings will shoot a lot of threes next season, according to Walton. “As a coach, it is your job to kind of get to know your roster and then try to put them with what’s best for this group of players, and I think we have a group that shooting a lot of threes is what’s best for us.”
- “Defense wins championships.” Even though he loves offense and watching the ball move around the floor and shooting, Walton says defense is how you win “when it really counts.” He plans to put a “huge emphasis” on defense by challenging the guys daily and beginning practices with defense. He said to change the philosophy to be more defensive minded, you have to give it the proper time in practice, you have to embrace the mentality of wanting to be a good defensive team and then having “good defensive players helps too.”
- On how he plans to use Marvin Bagley: “I told him I think he’s going to be a big part of what we do, and we need him to continue to improve and his versatility, him defending multiple positions will ultimately be a big factor in how much success and how many different defensive schemes we can use. Players like him and Harry [Giles], and some of those bigger versatile guys that we have. I’ll have a clearer picture of all those things the more I get to start to working with these guys and see what their strengths and weaknesses are.”
- “The relationship part of being in team sports has always been one of my favorite things, and building those relationships and earning the trust of your players, and trust is never just given, you have to show up and put in the work and let them know and have them believe that you care about them. I like that part of the game, and I’m looking forward to doing it.”
Good relationships are where Divac and Walton are banking on their connection working.
”I’m sure that you guys that know him around here know what kind of person he is,” Walton said. “He is easy to talk to, he loves the game of basketball, he’s won and played at all the levels. What he values is what I value as far as skill, and playmaking and shooting, and he’s just one of those guys that’s a lot of fun to be around, and I feel like as far as having a partnership with him in a very stressful type of job environment, that’s going to make both of our jobs more enjoyable and allow us to do our jobs better.”
Divac says they are on the same page:
”The coaching job is the toughest job in the NBA and having somebody that is behind you and work together and be on the same page, and share the same philosophy about the game definitely is going to help both of us moving forward.”