The Lakers have taken the first step toward making Luke Walton their next head coach.
On Wednesday, we learned that the Lakers had been granted permission to talk with Walton, and it appears the two sides have already met.
According to Lakers radio play-by-play man John Ireland, the purple and gold have interviewed Walton for the first time.
Ireland says the meeting “went well,” and went into detail of how Steve Kerr’s health will likely be the deciding factor when it comes to Luke’s final decision.
Below is a transcript of Ireland’s comments, via his ESPN L.A. 710 radio show, Mason & Ireland:
Let me tell you the latest on the Lakers coaching search, because I think it’s good, particularly if you’re a fan of Luke Walton. They’ve met, they’ve talked, it went well.
I personally – and nobody’s telling me anything, this is just my personal feeling in talking to both sides – think this is going to hinge on whether or not Steve Kerr feels he can complete his contract. He’s in year two of a five-year deal. His back is very bad. He missed the first 43 games this season, he’s continued to leak spinal fluid and he’s in a lot of pain.
I think, if you’re a Lakers fan, you should take it as a very good sign that the Warriors let Luke go do this interview. Because if Kerr knew, ‘You know what, I’m leaving. My health’s bad, I’m not going to be able to finish my contract,’ they wouldn’t even let Luke go. But I think what Kerr has told them is, ‘Look, I’m feeling better. I think I’m going to be able to complete my contract. I’m not going to hold you back.”
An average assistant coach salary is about $300,000 a year. A head coach salary is between $6-7 million.
I think the fact that the Warriors have granted permission for the Rockets and the Lakers to talk to Luke Walton is a sign that they’re willing to let him go and I think, just connecting dots, that if he gets offered the Rockets job, the Knicks job, the Kings job and the Lakers job that he would take the Lakers job.
I said before that I thought it was 60 percent Luke, 30 percent [Kevin] Ollie, 10 percent other, I’d now up it to 70 percent Luke, 30 percent other.
If you’re among the many Laker fans who would like to see Walton at the helm next season, Ireland’s comments should be music to your ears.
It’s true that Kerr has been dealing with health issues, though as Ireland points out, the Warriors wouldn’t want to let Walton go if they felt like Kerr wouldn’t be able to complete his contract.
Thankfully, Kerr’s surgery seemingly worked.
As Harrison Faigen from Silver Screen & Roll points out – hat tip to those guys for the heads up on this story – Kerr’s good health is great news in general, as he’s one of the most likeable people in the entire league, though it also bodes well for Laker fans hoping for Luke to return to the franchise where he won two NBA championships as a player in 2009 and 2010.