Kings coach Luke Walton was "very confident" when he spoke to the Sacramento media over the weekend about his job security.
We now know why.
A league source said Monday that Walton will return for a third season after finishing the 2020-21 campaign strong with a 9-7 record over the final 16 games, despite illness and injuries to most of his rotation.
The source confirmed that Walton’s relationship with general manager Monte McNair and his front office was a big reason for Walton being given another season to turn things around for a franchise that has now missed the NBA playoffs for 15 consecutive years.
Walton told NBC Sports California on Monday that he looks forward to helping the Kings end that drought.
“I appreciate my working relationship with Monte, and I am excited to continue on this journey," Walton told NBC Sports California. "I understand that every aspect of our team must be better, and this offseason is the time to take that next step.”
In addition to the support of the front office, players continue to back their coach. First, De’Aaron Fox spoke glowingly of the 40-year-old former player. But during Monday’s media session for player exit interviews, Tyrese Haliburton, Richaun Holmes and Harrison Barnes all praised Walton.
“Me and Luke get along really well,” Haliburton said. “I love him. I love playing for him.”
Haliburton said that he and Walton spent a lot of time in the second half of the season just talking and going over film together.
Haliburton called Walton a "players' coach," and Holmes echoed that sentiment.
“I just gotta thank Coach Luke for having the trust in me,” Holmes said. “Trusting and going to me, looking to me as an option and seeing what I can do and put me on the floor. He definitely gave me a big-time opportunity, and I appreciate that.”
Walton just finished the second of a four-year contract with the Kings. He’s owed $11.5 million over the next two seasons.
Through two shortened seasons in Sacramento, Walton owns a 62-82 record and a .431 win percentage. Only soon-to-be inducted Hall of Fame coach Rick Adelman has a better win percentage in the Kings' time in Sacramento.