Luke Walton is Staying Put in Sacramento, At Least For Now
- Sacramento Kings GM Monte McNair says that Luke Walton will remain as the team’s coach next season.
- Walton signed to coach the Kings last season after two years in Los Angeles.
- The Kings finished with a 31-41 record in Walton’s first year as head coach.
Newly-minted Sacramento Kings General Manager Monte McNair announced on Wednesday that Luke Walton will be returning to coach the team next season.
New Kings GM Monte McNair gives his initial thoughts on the organization, roster, coach Luke Walton & his readiness for the task of building a winning culture in Sacramento.
FULL PRESS CONFERENCE: https://t.co/7WhHSXvG3u pic.twitter.com/tPLhNxXC0k
— Sean Cunningham (@SeanCunningham) September 23, 2020
Walton was hired by the Kings last season after he spent the last two seasons coaching the Los Angeles Lakers. He was a teammate of former GM Vlade Divac in Los Angeles and Walton was Steve Kerr’s assistant coach in Golden State from 2015-2016. After helping the Warriors win the 2015 title, Walton acted as head coach with Steve Kerr sidelined and he led the team to a 39-4 record, 2nd best start in the history of the NBA, when Kerr resumed his post.
Said McNair bout Walton:
“I’ve got to know him the last few days; we’ve had some good conversations. I’ve heard great things. So far I think we’ve had a great rapport. Luke’s going to be our coach next year. I’m really excited to work with him. I think we’re aligned with our vision and we’re gonna start implementing it.”
McNair took over the GM position in Sacramento last week, replacing the resigned Divac. McNair is a Southern California native who worked 13 seasons with the Houston Rockets’ front office. The former Princeton graduate served as Houston’s assistant general manager since 2018 and was a key figure in the team’s analytics department while also working with the coaching staff for strategy. Hi expertise in cooperating with coaches will play a key role in Sacramento where talents exist.
Kings Have Intriguing Young Pieces
The Kings have intriguing young pieces but they have not been consistent enough to contend for a playoff spot in the tough Western Conference. Starting point guard De’Aaron Fox has improved leaps and bounds and has emerged as of the best point guards in the league.
Forward Marvin Bagley III had a promising rookie season after being picked second overall in 2018. However, Bagley was limited to 13 games this season as he struggled with injuries. Sacramento also has a pair of terrific three-point shooters in Buddy Hield and Bogdan Bogdanovic.
They also have veterans Harrison Barnes, Corey Joseph, and Jabari Parker add stability to their young core. However, the Kings could have been much better if not for some of Divac’s worst decision. The former Kings GM traded DeMarcus Cousins to New Orleans in 2017 and drafted Bagley instead of Luka Doncic in 2018.
Longest Current Playoff Drought in The NBA
Walton is Sacramento’s 10th coach since they last made the playoffs in 2005-06. That was the final year of Rick Adelman’s tenure as the Kings’ head coach. Walton went 31-41 this season in his first year as head coach of the Kings. Sacramento finished 12th in the Western Conference and missed the playoffs for the 14th straight season.
The Kings were one of the 22 teams invited to the Bubble Tournament in Orlando. Despite having a 28-36 record, Sacramento still had a shot at making the postseason. However, they quickly bowed out of the playoff race with five losses in their first six seeding games. The Kings finished their 2019-20 campaign with back to back wins over the New Orleans Pelicans.
Divac stepped down from his position as GM shortly after their season ended. The Kings concluded their search and announced the hiring of McNair last week. Sacramento’s playoff drought is the longest current dry spell in the NBA. McNair has assumed the task of ending it and he believes that Walton is the right man to steer the team back to the postseason.