The Los Angeles Lakers hired coach Luke Walton in hopes that he would be able to connect with the team’s young players and fast-track their development. The organization also needs to build a new culture, and that’s something that Walton hopes to establish as the foundation from which the Lakers will rebuild.
As the youngest coach in the league, Walton doesn’t employ the same leadership techniques as many coaches of the past. The classic locker room tirades, filled with projectile clipboards and inventive cursing, don’t happen here. Walton uses a more personal, player-friendly approach to motivate his team, drawing on his roots growing up with his self-described “hippie parents”. However, Lakers center Tarik Black cautioned to Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times that we shouldn’t mistake Walton’s style for apathy:
“Don’t take the mild-mannered-ness, or the hippieish-ness if you want to say, for complacency like he just doesn’t care about what we do. No, he coaches us. He cares a lot about what we do. It’s not a complacent thing, it’s just making sure we’re always instilled with confidence.”
Walton’s approach is certainly different, but it appears to be working with his young team. Man to man, each of the young Lakers has expressed excitement for the new season, and there is a general air of optimism around them even though they aren’t considered to be a playoff contender. Larry Nance Jr. explained Walton’s relationship with the team, via Ganguli:
“Luke’s the kind of coach that like you just don’t want to disappoint,” Nance said. “It sounds weird saying, but it’s almost like a parent. They don’t have to yell or scream or anything like that but just the fear of disappointing them is enough to give it your all.”
While the Lakers only compiled a preseason record of two wins and six losses, the ultimate success or failure of the season will be measured by the development of the young players. Walton may not use conventional methods, but if he can continue to get the team to buy in the way they have so far, the Lakers will be firmly on the right path.