College - Arkansas
In so many ways, Darrell Walker is back home.
Currently in his 13th season as an NBA coach, Walker returned to the Knickerbockers when he was named an assistant on Mike Woodson’s staff on Mar. 17, 2012. He is now in his second season (first full campaign) on the Knicks bench.
Walker’s NBA career began thirty years ago in the Big Apple. Now, with a resume that includes a decade each as a player and coach - not to mention a World Championship ring - he returns to a transformed Garden that remains familiar territory.
“When I got that phone call to come, I had to pinch myself,” says Walker, 51. “My wife said, `Wow, you’re coming back to the place where you first got drafted.’ It’s funny. When I was landing in New York on the team plane, it was like, `Man, I’m back in New York where it all started for me as a player.’ It was just funny.
“But it’s great to be back. The fans have been great. You know, you’ve still got some fans who were coming there when I was a player. They’ve been great to me. It’s been fun and a great ride so far.”
Prior to joining the Knicks, Walker had served for three seasons (2008-09 through 2010-11) as an assistant coach with the Detroit Pistons.
“I’ve known Darrell since he was a player, we competed against one another,” says head coach Mike Woodson. “The fact that he’s had head-coaching experience means a lot to me. His being able to relate to players is also important. Those are the big reasons he’s here with me.”
Walker brings more than a decade of coaching experience to the Knicks, having served as both an NBA assistant and head coach. He began his coaching career as an assistant coach on the inaugural Toronto Raptors squad of 1995-96. The following year, he succeeded Brendan Malone as Raptors head coach and piloted Toronto for two seasons (1996-97 through Feb. 13, 1998).
In 1999-2000, Walker authored a unique “hat trick” when he piloted three teams in three leagues. He began the season as head coach of the CBA’s Rockford Lightning. On Jan. 29, 2000, he was named interim head coach of the Washington Wizards and led the Wizards for the remainder of the season. Then on Jul. 14, 2000, he was named interim head coach for the WNBA’s Washington Mystics and guided the club to its first Playoff berth.
Walker remained in Washington for four additional seasons with the Wizards; as director of player personnel (2000-01) and as a scout (2001-02 through 2003-04). He then served for four seasons (2004-05 through 2007-08) as an assistant with the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets, prior to his three-year stint in Detroit.
Walker, who owns a career NBA head coaching record of 56-113 (.331) over three seasons, was an integral part of the Bernard King-led Knicks squad that advanced to the Eastern Conference Semis in 1984. Few can relate the New York basketball experience to younger ears better than he. After enduring last year’s compressed schedule, that task might be easier this season.
“We didn’t have time to do that last year, it was too busy,” says Walker. “Too many games were coming up, too much time was spent watching tape, trying to help Woody prepare for games. Now, since we’re going to be back for a full season, we can really put our hands on players more and spend more time with guys. Last year, games were just coming so fast, there was no time to just chit-chat because you’re always trying to get ready for a game, or the players were trying to get some rest.”
Walker’s distinguished 10-year NBA playing career began when he was drafted by the Knicks in the first round (12th overall) in the 1983 NBA Draft. He played his first three NBA seasons in New York, earning NBA All-Rookie Honors in 1983-84. As a rookie, he averaged 7.9 points off the bench and played a key role as the Knicks defeated Detroit in five memorable games in the first Playoff round in ’84 and then extended the eventual champion Boston Celtics to seven games in the East Semis. His 15 steals in the first round against the Pistons (including a club Playoff record seven in Game One) are still a Knicks Playoff mark for a five-game series. Darrell scored a career-high 13.5 points with the Knicks in 1984-85.
Walked also played with Denver (1986-87), Washington (1987-88 through 1990-91) and Detroit (1991-92 through 1992-93). Signed as a free agent by Chicago on Jan. 28, 1993, he ended his playing career as a member of the 1992-93 NBA Champion Bulls, alongside former Knick teammates Bill Cartwright and Trent Tucker.
Walker averaged 8.9 points and 4.6 assists over 720 games (356 starts) in 10 NBA seasons. With the Bullets in 1989-90, he ranked tenth in the NBA with a career-high 8.1 assists. During his playing career, he played for four future Hall of Famers: Hubie Brown, Wes Unseld, Chuck Daly and Phil Jackson. After his retirement, Darrell served as a field rep for the National Basketball Players Association from 1993 through 1995.
Walker also enjoyed a standout three-year college career at the University of Arkansas, averaging 14.7 points after transferring from Westark (AR) Junior College following his freshman season. He was honored twice as Southwest Conference Defensive Player of the Year, and was named Second-Team AP All-American as a senior in 1982-83. Walker was enshrined in the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame with the Class of 2003, and in the University of Arkansas Hall of Honor in 2008.
Walker was born on Mar. 9, 1961 in Chicago. Darrell and his wife Felicia have four sons, Darrell, Jerrell, Jarrett and Jarren. He also has one daughter, Felicia. Darrell and Lisa have one grandchild, Jarrett’s four-year old son Jadion.