The hottest coach through the first half of the NBA season was only 35 years old. His squad finished the year with a 73-9 record, good for best in league history, and is just beginning an all-out assault on the Western Conference playoffs.
So why is the club allowing him to speak to other teams about job openings? Because he's still only an assistant.
That's right: Luke Walton, the Warriors' top assistant, officially received permission to explore his options on the coaching market -- after the playoffs, of course.
Head coach Steve Kerr spoke Monday about rumors that Walton had been in contact with Knicks President Phil Jackson about a potential opening in New York. Via ESPN.com:
"We'll give Luke permission, but it would be after a series ended and we have a little spare time, but it's important to note that Phil has not reached out to Luke about the job. That's false. Friendships sometimes dictate conversation, and there was some of that, but nothing to do with the job."
The now-36-year-old has only one prior season of NBA coaching experience, but his accomplishments are hard to ignore.
Walton took over interim head coaching duties for Golden State from the start of the 2015-16 season until January 22nd, when Kerr returned from a health-related leave of absence. In that span, the second-year assistant guided his team to a 39-4 record, including an NBA record 24-0 start (though league rules officially credit his wins to Kerr).
Granted, Walton inherited a defending NBA champion whose roster was stocked with once-in-a-generation talent, but he should get some credit for helping his players avoid a post-title slump and handle the pressure of their record-setting pace.
The Knicks aren't the only ones with reported interest in Walton. ESPN's Marc Stein reports that the Suns may also target him if they decide against keeping interim head coach Earl Watson.
But it remains to be seen whether any job could entice Walton to leave a potential dynasty in Golden State. After all, he won two NBA championships playing nine seasons with Kobe Bryant and the Lakers -- a dynasty in its own right.
His father, Hall of Famer Bill Walton, thinks he should stay right where he is. Speaking with For The Win, the elder Walton said his son should never leave the Warriors.
"I always tell him the same thing: 'Luke, it doesn’t ever get any better than what you have right now.' I was part of three of the greatest teams ever -- UCLA, Portland, the Celtics. I’ve been at the other end of the spectrum too. There are opposite ends of every teeter-totter, so I tell him, “Money can’t buy what you have.” Head coaching jobs, they’re open for a reason. Those reasons don’t exist in Golden State."
There's certainly merit to that argument, but it won't deter teams seeking new head coaches from contacting Walton. Especially if he wins another title this year.
The Wizards have their own job to fill, but are seeking an experienced candidate and are unlikely to consider the Warriors assistant.