Although the Los Angeles Lakers front office underwent a significant overhaul when Jeanie Buss ousted her brother Jim and Mitch Kupchak by replacing them with Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka, head coach Luke Walton has retained his position despite being tied to the previous regime.
Johnson and Pelinka spoke positively of Walton upon being installed as the new figureheads of the Lakers front office, and they’ve generally done so on multiple occasions. However, Johnson reportedly admonished Walton during a closed-doors meeting early this season.
It fueled speculation that Walton’s job security was in jeopardy, which Johnson pushed back on by declaring he would remain head coach for the remainder of the season — unless there was a “drastic” turn of events with the team. Johnson declined to specify what would make for such a scenario.
Amid rumblings that Johnson and Pelinka will one day seek to hire a head coach of their choosing, a long-held belief is Buss resides as Walton’s staunchest supporter.
During an appearance on “The Lowe Post”, Buss asserted Johnson, Pelinka and the entire Lakers organization supports Walton:
“I think the reason why the Lakers are doing so well is we have someone with the basketball vision, and that’s Magic Johnson. He, along with Rob Pelinka, are running our basketball program. Now, I can tell you right now that everyone — Magic, Rob, myself — everyone in the organization is behind Luke. There’s nothing more important to Magic, besides his family, than this Laker team. And we are doing everything we can to make sure Luke is successful at his job. That’s our job.”
Despite the public vote of confidence, Buss stopped short of declaring Walton would absolutely finish out the season as head coach of the Lakers:
“You’re asking the wrong person. The vision has to come from Magic. But from where I sit, from what I can tell you, every single thing that we’re doing, every single person in the organization is here to make Luke successful.”
To Walton’s credit, he’s consistently deflected attention away from any possible concerns over his status. The third-year coach has also raved about the relationship he shares with the entire front office, even after the much-publicized meeting with Johnson.
Next season is believed to be the last that’s guaranteed of Walton’s reported five-year contract. While he’s guided the team to nine-win improvements in each of the past two seasons, expectations drastically changed with the arrival of LeBron James.
The new-look Lakers got off to a slow start but eventually they and Walton found their stride. However, just as that was occurring, the roster became ravaged by injuries. As such, it would make a potential coaching change all the more difficult to decide on.
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