With the Los Angeles Lakers seemingly days away from officially being eliminated from the playoffs for a sixth consecutive season, speculation about changes figures to again ramp up. The bulk of which will likely focus on head coach Luke Walton and his future with the franchise.
After leading the Lakers to nine-win improvements in each of his first two seasons as head coach, Walton and the team have failed to meet expectations. Compounding matters is their shortcomings have been when pressure and expectations were at the highest they’ve been during Walton’s tenure.
Having coached through much of the season on the proverbial hot seat, the expectation is the Lakers will part with Walton upon finishing out the year. According to Marc Stein of the New York Times, one point of contention with Walton lies on his coaching staff:
Management, furthermore, is said to be dismayed by Walton’s refusal to hire a seasoned former head coach as his top assistant — something young coaches (Walton is 38) frequently do.
Though not necessarily in terms of years coaching but roles held, Lakers associate head coach Brian Shaw is the most experienced member of Walton’s staff. Shaw was head coach of the Denver Nuggets for two seasons, and associate head coach of the Indiana Pacers for two years.
He additionally worked as an assistant to former Lakers head coach Phil Jackson for seven seasons.
Although the Lakers may lack a desired assistant to Walton, the coaches have played a role in the development of the team’s young core.
But with Walton seemingly on the way out, there’s some belief Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson will target Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo. A previous report suggested Johnson was eyeing a current head coach as Walton’s replacement.
As for Walton, he may be coveted by the Phoenix Suns if they too make a coaching change, or the Arizona Wildcats in the collegiate ranks.