For the second consecutive season, the Warriors will be losing an assistant coach to a Western Conference competitor.
Luke Walton is going to the Los Angeles Lakers, the team announced Friday night.
Walton will continue to work as the top assistant to Steve Kerr with the Warriors for the duration of their postseason run and join the Lakers afterward.
"We are thrilled for Luke,” Warriors general manager Bob Myers said in a statement issued by the team. “This is a tremendous opportunity for him to return home and serve as head coach for one of the most storied franchises in sports.
“Luke has done an incredible job during his two-year stint with our team and has played a significant role in our success, including last year’s championship and again this season under some very unique circumstances. We are certainly going to miss Luke after we conclude our playoff run this season, but we wish him the very best with the Lakers.”
The Warriors earlier this week granted permission for Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak to speak with Walton after completing their first-round series with Houston. The Warriors won that series on Wednesday, after which dialogue commenced between Walton and the Lakers.
“We're excited to bring Luke back to Los Angeles, where we feel he's going to start an outstanding coaching career," Kupchak said on the team’s website. "He's one of the brightest young coaching minds in the game and we feel fortunate that he'll be leading the on-court future of our team."
Walton, 36, became a hot coaching commodity based on a number of factors, none bigger than his term as interim coach during Kerr’s leave of absence. The Warriors under Walton won their first 24 games – an NBA-record start – and were 39-4 when Kerr returned on Jan. 22.
“I’m incredibly happy for Luke,” Kerr said in a statement. “As we witnessed earlier this season, he has all of the intangibles necessary to be an outstanding head coach in this league, including a terrific understanding of the game and the ability to communicate with a wide range of people.
“He’s certainly ready for this opportunity and I’m confident he’ll do a great job with the Lakers once our season is complete.”
Walton, who owns a home in the Los Angeles area, has had a meteoric rise. After his 10-year NBA career, he retired after the 2012-13 season and spent one year as a player development coach in the D-League before Kerr tapped him to join the Warriors in June, 2014.
Walton was the Warriors’ No. 3 assistant last season, behind Alvin Gentry and Ron Adams. Gentry left last summer to become head coach in New Orleans, after which Kerr promoted Walton to the top assistant post.