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Walton set to replace Scott as Lakers head coach

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Arizona Athletics
Luke Walton

Luke Walton is returning to the Los Angeles Lakers bench, only this time, he’s sitting in the head coach’s seat.

The current Golden State Warriors assistant coach and former Arizona Wildcat has agreed to become the Lakers’s newest head coach. He played for the team professionally from 2003-2012.

Walton will replace former head coach Byron Scott, another former Laker. Scott’s tenure with the Lakers was arguably one of the worst in the franchise’s history, finishing 38-126 over two seasons.

The Lakers decided last week to not exercise their option on Scott’s contract for next season. Walton was announced as the team’s new head coach on Friday. It’s a match made in heaven for Walton and Laker fans.

“I knew after meeting with them that they wanted to get something done. If we were going to do something, I wanted to get it done quickly as well,” Walton said to ESPN’s Marc Stein. “It was an opportunity you have to take advantage of.”

Walton, the son of Hall of Fame big man and play-by-play announcer Bill Walton, played for the Wildcats from 1999-2003. He was named a two-time All-Pac-10 first team. As a junior, Walton averaged 15.7 points and 7.3 rebounds per game, both career highs. This impressive season led him to being named a second-team All-American in the 2002 season.

The San Diego native was then drafted in the second round and 32nd overall by the Los Angeles Lakers. In nine seasons with the Lakers, Walton was a consistent face on the team while the Lakers recovered from the departure of Shaquille O’Neal and transitioned into the Kobe Bryant era.

Walton, almost always a reserve player, was a part of the back-to-back NBA champion Lakers in 2009 and 2010. His best season statistically was 2006-2007 when he started in 60 games, scored 11.4 points, grabbed five rebounds and dished 4.3 assists per game.

“The Laker organization, … they have some nice, young pieces and a lot of salary cap to play with,” Walton said.

He was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers during the 2011-2012 season, where he finished his career the following season. Walton finished his tenure with the Lakers averaging 4.9 points and 2.9 rebounds per game.

He joined fellow former Wildcat Steve Kerr and the Warriors last season, where he helped lead them to the NBA championship as an assistant coach. Walton’s defining moment as an assistant coach came at the beginning of this season, when he stepped in as interim head coach while Kerr took a leave of absence after a back injury.

Walton helped lead the Warriors to an NBA record start of 24-0 to begin the season. He finished his term as interim head coach with a 39-4 record with the Warriors before Kerr returned to the sidelines.

This stretch was impressive enough for the Lakers to pull the trigger on a head coaching position in favor of their familiar face. Like Kerr, Walton is making his alma mater proud by finding success outside McKale Center.

“It’s time to get back after it and I just felt like there’s enough good, positive things happening down there that this would be a good job for me,” Walton said.

The ball is in your court, coach.


Follow Kyle Hansen on Twitter.


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