On Saturday, Sacramento Kings general manager Monte McNair fired Luke Walton, as first reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN on Sunday.
Walton began his tenure in Sacramento in 2019 after brief stints with both the Golden State Warriors and the Los Angeles Lakers. His record as a head coach in Sacramento was a mediocre 68-90, which is a win percentage of 43%. Excluding his time as the interim head coach in Golden State in 2015-16, which the league chose not to count towards his record as a head coach, Walton has a win percentage 42.9% as a head coach — not very successful.
So why was he even given the opportunity to be the head coach in the first place? Because of the silly idea that he could recreate what he did in Golden State with a young team.
Walton was given the position temporarily while the team’s true head coach Steve Kerr recovered from a surgery and was unable to perform his duties at the start of the 2015-16 season. During that time, the defending champion Warriors won an NBA-record 24 games in a row to start the year, an incredible feat. His time as head coach would end with a record of 39-4.
But even though Walton was the interim head coach, it would be hard to equate the Warriors’ success with him. In case everyone forgot, the Warriors went on to finish that season with the best regular season record of all time at 73-9. They were also led by the first unanimous MVP Steph Curry, who also broke the record for threes made in a season with 402. The previous record, also held by Curry, was 286, which he accomplished the year before.
Even though they eventually lost in the Finals to a determined LeBron James-led Cavaliers, they are undoubtedly one of the best teams in league history. Whether Walton was the coach or most any coach in the league, that team was going to be great. The same obviously wasn’t true with the Lakers and Kings.
After the 2015-16 season, Walton was given the head coaching job for the Los Angeles Lakers. Believe it or not, his record as the head coach of the Lakers is even worse than with the Kings. In three years the Lakers went 98-148.
The roster he was given was tragic and lacked pretty much everything needed to make the playoffs, but if he was the brilliant young coach responsible for leading the Warriors to a 39-4 start, why couldn’t he at least help them compete?
The simple answer: Walton lacks the ability to lead a team that doesn’t have Hall of Fame talent. The King’s current roster, which has much more NBA-ready talent than any of his young Lakers rosters but both teams failed in similar ways: they started games well and built leads only to give them up and lose.
Walton has been given two head coaching positions based off half a season with a legendary team. Both times, he has failed. Walton is not currently fit to be a head coach in the NBA and should never have been given the Kings’ head coaching job.