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OAKLAND – Within moments of Steve Kerr’s return as head coach of the Warriors came the testimonials on behalf of interim coach Luke Walton, as well as the pleas for him to stay with the organization.
Walton last summer was promoted to lead assistant after one season as No. 3 assistant. And when Kerr took a leave of absence two days into training camp, he designated Walton as interim coach.
Despite concerns about Walton’s inexperience – he had never been a full-time coach on any level prior to last season – the Warriors continued this season where they left off last season, which ended with an NBA championship.
“He did a great job,” Steph Curry said of Walton on Friday. “It’s no easy task to take over the reins when you’re approaching the season with a certain mindset that coach Kerr is going to be here and it doesn’t work out that way.”
Kerr, beyond pleased with Walton’s work over the past four months, also expressed a desire to keep Walton with the Warriors for as long as he’s willing to remain an assistant.
“He’s been awesome. He’s been amazing, the job he’s done,” Kerr said. “He’s a head coach waiting to happen, anytime. Hopefully, he’ll take his time and stick around here for a little while.”
Forward Draymond Green, who spends more court time with Walton than any other player, already is bracing for the possibility of the 10-year NBA player being lured away after such an impressive stint as interim coach in the absence of Kerr.
“It gave Luke an opportunity,” Green said. “It gave other coaches an opportunity to step up. It gave us more of a sense of responsibility, of togetherness, knowing that this is Luke’s first go at it. And, man, he was amazing.
“It’s kind of frustrating, too, because now . . . Luke is my guy and now he’s going to be gone next year – if any GMs are smart.”