Bill Walton has a candidate in mind for the next head coach of his alma mater — none other than former President Barack Obama.
Walton spoke out this week about the school’s head coaching vacancy after the program sacked longtime coach Steve Alford. During a broadcast of UCLA’s Pac-12 conference opener against Stanford, Walton said he thinks Obama has all the qualities of a successful college basketball coach, Yahoo Sports noted.
When co-host Dave Pasch threw cold water on Walton’s enthusiasm, the UCLA legend pushed back.
“Well you keep saying that, but why? Why are you so negative?” Walton said. “… I’m sticking with Barack Obama until he says no.”
It’s not clear what experience Obama could bring — other than his love for basketball, and a keen interest in the college game. Obama has famously released his NCAA Tournament bracket every year, for better or for worse. Obama was also known for playing competitive pickup games while president.
Barack Obama is not the first White House-connected official to be floated for a major sports vacancy in recent months. Earlier this year — after the Cleveland Browns fired head coach Hue Jackson — there were reports that the team was interested in former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, a lifelong Browns fan.
After ESPN reported on the rumor, Browns general manager John Dorsey issued a statement dispelling the reports.
“Our coaching search will be thorough and deliberate, but we are still in the process of composing the list of candidates and Secretary Rice has not been discussed,” he said.
Bill Walton's out-of-the-box suggestion for UCLA's next basketball coach may sound off the wall, but it has a certain logic. https://t.co/a9zmscn2qF— HuffPost (@HuffPost) January 4, 2019
Rice later posted a message saying she was “not ready to coach,” though she “would like to call a play or two next season if the Browns need ideas.”
UCLA boosters already have some other ideas for the team’s next basketball coach. As Forbes reported, a pair of very influential program backers are aiming for Rick Pitino.
“Casey Wasserman, a billionaire UCLA alum who was influential in the hiring of Chip Kelly as UCLA’s new football coach, and John Branca, a graduate of the UCLA Law School and an entertainment lawyer who is the co-executor of Michael Jackson’s Estate, both want Pitino, the source said.”
Barack Obama has not commented on the suggestion that he take on the UCLA coaching job, but he would not be the first college basketball coach in the family. His brother-in-law, Craig Robinson, was the former head coach at Oregon State — before becoming the vice president for player and organizational development for the New York Knicks.