Despite the successful acquisition of LeBron James last summer, the Los Angeles Lakers were still unable to end their playoff drought in the 2018-19 NBA season. With the Lakers set to miss the postseason for the sixth straight year, rumors and speculation have been circulating around Coach Luke Walton and his future in Los Angeles.
Since the Lakers are officially removed from the playoff race, numerous rumors suggest that the Lakers will fire Luke Walton as head coach after the season. In the past few months, several people have emerged as potential replacements for Walton, including former Milwaukee Bucks head coach Jason Kidd, former Cleveland Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue, Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, and former New Orleans Pelicans head coach Monty Williams. In an interview with Bill Oram of The Athletic, Walton admitted that he has heard all the rumors about his job in Los Angeles.
Though multiple signs are pointing out that he will be fired after the season, Luke Walton remains very optimistic that he will remain as the Lakers head coach in the 2019-20 NBA season.
“I fully expect to be coaching this team again next year,” Walton told The Athletic on Tuesday night.
Coach Luke Walton may have contributed to the Lakers’ recent struggles, but it’s very unfair for him to take the full blame for their inability to earn a playoff spot in the deep Western Conference. Aside from their failure to immediately build good chemistry, some of the Lakers’ core players, including LeBron James, Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, and Kyle Kuzma, have missed a significant amount of time due to injuries. However, only Lakers President of Basketball Operations Magic Johnson and General Manager Rob Pelinka have the power to decide whether Walton will be the Lakers head coach next season or not.
As Oram noted, Lakers owner Jeanie Buss, who has been a vocal supporter of Luke Walton, doesn’t have any plan to intervene if Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka are already planning to hire a new head coach in the 2019 NBA offseason.
“He has long had an ally in Lakers owner Jeanie Buss, but team sources have indicated that she will let Johnson dictate what the Lakers do on the bench. Buss joined the Lakers in Milwaukee at the end of their recent five-game East Coast road trip. For part of the flight home on the team charter, Walton sat next to the owner. They talked about ‘a bunch of different things,’ he said, without going into detail.”
Even if the Lakers fire him after the season, Luke Walton intends to continue his coaching career somewhere else. According to Sean Deveney of The Sporting News, Walton will be a “wanted man” once he officially parts ways with the Lakers next summer. Some of the NBA teams who could go after Walton include the Phoenix Suns and the Cleveland Cavaliers.