SACRAMENTO -- The changing of the guard came quickly.
Less than 48 hours after letting coach Dave Joerger go, the Sacramento Kings already have Luke Walton signed, sealed and delivered.
Walton, of course, had parted ways with the Los Angeles Lakers just 24 hours before agreeing to take the Kings job. Without any chance to catch his breath, the 39-year-old met with the media for his introductory press conference Monday afternoon at Golden 1 Center.
By every standard, that is an extremely quick turnaround. But when you find your guy, you find your guy. And Kings general manager Vlade Divac found his guy.
“Knowing Luke for a long time, it’s kind of the same soul about basketball,” Divac said. “We understand each other very well, and I’m excited that we’re going to build this team together and get to the next level.”
Divac and Walton originally crossed paths as teammates with the Lakers during the 2004-05 season. Divac was finishing his Hall of Fame career, and Walton was just entering his second season in the NBA.
Their previous acquaintance helped speed the transition from one franchise to the next. Rarely do you see a coach leave a job one day and jump into another the next day.
Walton is excited about his new career path. But he also knows that the business of coaching hoops is brutal and your livelihood is often at the whims of others.
“It’s why it’s important to be very passionate about this job because it’s a lot that comes with it,” Walton told NBA Sports California. “But in my opinion, it’s the best job in the world, working in the NBA. I’m thrilled to have another opportunity to do that.”
Walton’s path to the NBA is unique. He spent his childhood moving from one city to the next as the son of Hall of Famer Bill Walton. One of Luke's brothers was born in Portland, where the elder Walton played for the Trail Blazers.
Luke was born in San Diego after his father signed as a free agent with the Clippers in 1979. The family spent time in Boston as well, giving the Kings’ new coach a good taste of the NBA life at a young age.
After a successful college career playing at Arizona under legendary coach Lute Olson, Walton was selected with the second pick of the second round in the 2003 NBA Draft. He fought his way into the league, spending 10 years with the Lakers and Cavs as a role player, playing for another coaching legend in Phil Jackson.
Despite his NBA pedigree, Walton’s path wasn’t easy. He finished his career averaging 4.7 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.3 assists over 564 career regular-season games.
“I believe that the harder you work, the more success you have,” Walton said. “I can understand the struggles of players and what you have to go through. I think that helps allow me to be a patient coach because as a player, I had to be patient with my skills developing.”
Walton further developed his coaching style over two seasons under Steve Kerr as an assistant for the Warriors. In his second season with the team, he stepped in for 43 games as an interim head coach while Kerr struggled with back issues, posting an incredible 39-4 record over the stretch.
That experience helped Walton land the Lakers' head-coaching job, where he posted 98-148 record over the last three seasons.
With an extremely young roster in Sacramento, the Kings will rely on their new coach to help further the culture that has greatly improved over the last few seasons.
Faces of the Sacramento Kings organization: pic.twitter.com/7Pyo2azgUK— James Ham (@James_HamNBCS) April 15, 2019
“No. 1, you’ve got to let them know that you care, that you’re willing to work for them,” Walton said. “To me, I look at coaching as a job of service. We are here to make things better.”
Known as a great communicator, Walton inherits a solid group of players that took major strides under Joerger this season both on and off the floor. The foundation is in place, and there is hope the team is on the cusp of becoming a playoff-caliber squad.
Both Divac and Walton punted when asked about predictions regarding records or playoffs for next season, but both expect improvement over the 39-43 record that the Kings posted this season.
[RELATED: Watch the full Luke Walton press conference]
Walton will bounce back and forth between his home in Southern California and Sacramento over the coming weeks, but the job already has started. De'Aaron Fox, Harrison Barnes, Harry Giles, Nemanja Bjelica and Marvin Bagley were all at the practice facility to greet their new coach, and he intends to build out his staff over the coming weeks.