When Vlade Divac stepped down from the Kings front office, the message from the Kings front office was that the team would be making no further personnel changes until a new general manager was in place. That meant that head coach Luke Walton’s job wasn’t in jeopardy, at least for the time being.
Now, Sacramento has a new general manager, as the team announced the hire of Monte McNair last week. However, Walton still appears to be safe, per reporting from Sam Amick of The Athletic. On an episode of the HoopsHype podcast with Michael Scotto, Amick indicated that the Kings are still committed to Walton despite the front-office changes:
“I think [Walton]’s definitely fine for the foreseeable future. I do think that the message was sent ultimately to Monte, because that’s who they hired, that they’re pretty invested both financially and kind of spiritually in Luke, although the finances I think are playing a massive part there.”
It’s always tricky when a general manager is hired after a coach, and it rarely bodes well for the sitting head coach, as Kings fans know well. However, if McNair was on board with Walton when he took the job, hopefully that means McNair’s vision of the roster aligns with Walton’s.
The financial component is interesting here, because Walton does have three years left on his current deal, and teams have lost revenue during the pandemic. That may factor into Sacramento’s willingness to keep Walton around after a rough first season.
Even if Walton is to remain as the head coach, McNair can still make an impactful hire on the bench for Walton’s lead assistant. That role was filled by Igor Kokoskov last season, but he left to take the head coaching job for Fenerbahce. Last year, the Kings considered J.B. Bickerstaff, Brian Shaw, and Ime Udoka, per Jason Jones of The Athletic, but the first two have head coaching jobs, and Udoka presumably has larger ambitions after being Brett Brown’s No. 2 in Philadelphia in 2019-20. Whoever fills in for Kokoskov could be McNair’s most impactful hire of the offseason.
Then again, the Kings could simply reverse course and fire Walton after all. But all indications are that he will be patrolling the team’s sideline for at least one more season.