Luke Walton has signed up for a job he will hate having soon enough, because that is the natural order of things.
The pull of home, the pull of the Los Angeles Lakers, the pull of running his own shop away from the cruel tyrannies of Steve Kerr, the pull of capacious pots of money . . . it all added up for the first (or it is second) acorn from the Kerr Coaching Tree.
Those are all personal reasons to say yes. There were equally compelling reasons to bide his time, starting with the fact that the Lakers are an utterly dysfunctional mess from roof to floor, and are not likely to repair themselves any time soon.
That means that Walton runs the very real risk of getting a team, getting it halfway back to its feet and then being replaced by the next hot item on the menu. After all, nothing says Short Attention Span Theatre quite like a twitchy owner.
But he knows all this, because he is nobody’s fool, and he did his homework, and he asked lots of questions of lots of people. He kicked those tires and did that diligence, and he cannot say subsequently that he wasn’t properly apprised.
He leaves the luxury of being part of a much greater whole in Oakland, but so did Alvin Gentry, and so did all the members of the Gregg Popovich coaching tree, and the Phil Jackson coaching tree, and all the other fauna going back to John Kundla in the 1950s. It is in the coach’s DNA to run his own team, to apply what he’s learned and make it better, or get bought out a year before his contract expires trying.
For their part, the Lakers get their first bit of non-Kobe feel-good in about three years. They will sell Walton’s clear blue eyes and steely grin and see what teams fixated on past glories always see – past glories.
But the right-now of the Lakers makes Walton’s choice a difficult one unless he knows this is but the start of his journey and not the destination. It may be tough to think of his former team and town that way, but that’s what you get when you start at the top and find that your career path takes you, well, down from where you were.
Oh well. You take the job that’s open when it opens. That’s the rule, too.