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Luke Walton has agreed to be the Los Angeles Lakers’ new head coach, with the sides agreeing to a multiyear deal Friday, the team said.
Walton spent nine seasons with the Lakers, winning two championship rings as a smart, steady contributor. Three years after his retirement, the 36-year-old Southern California native is back to become the 26th coach in franchise history.
Walton has been serving as an assistant for the Golden State Warriors, who granted him permission to interview with the Lakers after their first-round Western Conference playoff series against the Houston Rockets concluded Wednesday.
“I loved everything about my time at Golden State and learning from Steve [Kerr],” Walton told ESPN. “I’ll forever be grateful to him, the organization and the team. But I have always dreamed of being a head coach and the chance to do that for an organization like the Lakers doesn’t come around very often.”
A source told ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne that Walton was the Lakers’ first choice and the only candidate they interviewed. They had other meetings lined up but canceled them after Thursday’s interview with Walton in Oakland, California.
“We’re excited to bring Luke back to Los Angeles, where we feel he’s going to start an outstanding coaching career,” Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said in a release. “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.”
The 36-year-old had become a hot coaching commodity after posting a 39-4 record — including a record 24-0 start — as the Warriors’ interim coach this season while Kerr was recovering from complications stemming from two offseason back surgeries.
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Byron Scott will not return to coach the Los Angeles Lakers next season, the team announced late Sunday.
Scott coached the Lakers for the two worst seasons in the 16-time NBA champion franchise’s history. The Lakers are making another break from the Kobe Bryant era by firing the coach who shepherded the superstar guard’s farewell season but couldn’t coax many wins out of an otherwise dismal roster.
Los Angeles finished with the NBA’s second-worst record at 17-65 this season. The team lost four more games than it did in its previous franchise-worst season in 2014-15.
Sources told ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne that Scott was informed by the Lakers of the decision Sunday night during their second meeting of the past week.
Sources said there was a recognition that it was “impossible” to evaluate Scott based on the talent level on the team the past two years, but the Lakers felt they needed a new vision that embraced the current style of wide-open play and outside shooting.
The team wanted to make a move quickly because of how important free agency will be this summer and because president of basketball operations Jim Buss and general manager Mitch Kupchak are working under Buss’ self-imposed one-year deadline for turning the franchise around, sources said.
Scott’s contract included a team option for next season — the third year of the deal — that was tied to performance incentives that he did not meet, sources said. A team option was also included for the fourth year.
“We would like to thank Byron for his hard work, dedication and loyalty over the last two years but have decided it is in the best interest of the organization to make a change at this time,” Kupchak said in a statement.
Scott understood that his job was in jeopardy last week. He won three NBA titles as the shooting guard for the Showtime Lakers of the 1980s, playing alongside Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and James Worthy on some of the greatest teams in league history.