Luke Walton has admitted that it was a difficult decision to leave the Golden State Warriors and become head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers.
Walton, who signed a five-year contract with the Lakers, began the 2015/16 NBA season as the Warriors’ head coach and was in charge when the team broke the record for the best start in history by winning their first 24 games.
Overall, the Warriors were 39-4 under Walton’s tenure before regular coach Steve Kerr returned from back surgery.
The Warriors went on to have the best season in NBA history as they won 73 games and lost just nine, but Walton has left the team in order to take charge of the Lakers, who are coming off a franchise-worst 17-65 season.
“It was a tough decision, but I didn’t have to sleep on it because I already kind of thought it out,” Walton told reporters. “Obviously, I love that the past two years the players here are incredible, not just talent-wise, but the people they are. I love the coaching staff I work with here.
“I was a little nervous about making the phone call because we have such a good thing going here and I respect [Kerr] so much. But he was blown away. He couldn’t believe how quickly it had happened but he was so excited. It was like two friends talking. He was really, really happy for me, the opportunity. We had that call and I was at his house 3 hours later.”
Despite the Lakers’ disastrous season, Walton believes the team has a lot of talented players and he added that he is determined to turn their fortunes around next season.
Furthermore, Walton admitted that his decision to join the Lakers was influenced by the fact that he played for the team in the past.
“[The Lakers] laid it all out, they showed what they want to do, players they plan on going after, all that stuff,” Walton said. “That’s exciting to me. Get to be with one of the greatest organizations in the history of sports and they’re ready and willing to get after it.
“The fact I played for the Lakers and I feel part of that family. I still root for them. Even before I took this job I watched Laker games and hoped that they succeed and win so it’s kind of nice to be able to go back and try to help rebuild what they used to have there.”