The Lakers have officially stepped into the Luke Walton era, as the team introduced him as their new head coach on Tuesday. Just two days after Walton's last game as an assistant for Golden State, he fielded questions from the Los Angeles media about taking over the purple and gold.
Below is a full transcription of Walton's comments about his future with the Lakers, experiences with the Warriors and more.
Q: On if he has gotten over Golden State’s loss in Game 7 of the NBA Finals yet:
Walton: I don’t think you ever get over that disappointment, to be honest. I still haven’t gotten over the disappointment of losing to Detroit (in the Finals) my rookie year, to losing to the Celtics when they were pouring Gatorade with five minutes left in the game when they were up 30 in Boston. You don’t get over those things, but they do motivate you and they do make you appreciate winning championships and what it feels like to be on the other side of that. So I don’t think that I’ll get over that in this lifetime, but I look forward to trying to get back on the other side of that down here.
Q: On what excites him most about taking over as head coach of the Lakers:
Walton: Everything excites me. We have young, talented players. We have draft picks. We have $60-70 million in free agency. We have one of the greatest fan bases of all-time. It’s an organization that free agents want to play for. As far as being a young coach and being able to help rebuild and organization and a team that I love and that I grew up with, it’s all exciting to me.
Q: On if there is something about the team’s culture that needs to change after consecutive losing seasons:
Walton: I can’t speak of what it’s like here. You never know when you just watch games on TV. What I can affect is what’s going to happen next year and the year after that. We’re going to put our stamp on the culture that we want. It’s going to be joy. Our players are going to like coming into practice every day. We’re going to play a brand of basketball that the L.A. fans will appreciate. We’re going to compete. All these things going forward with my vision of how we’re going to do things is what I can control. I don’t know how that’ll be different from the previous two years because I wasn’t in here for those years. But yes, there’s gonna be an emphasis on the culture going forward, and that’s going to be up to us and the staff that we bring in to hold the guys accountable and make them want to be a part of that.
Q: On how long he has wanted to be a head coach:
Walton: Since the playing days have ended. I think, even without realizing it, when you play you kind of develop the kind of person you are and the coach that you want to be by what you believe in and what you see. A lot of that comes from previous coaches: Phil Jackson, Lute Olson, even back to my high school coach, Jim Thome. These are all guys that would influence that. Then from the players’ perspective, you see what works and how coaches talk to certain players. You kind of observe that and you take that in. Being able to coach under Steve Kerr the last two years — looking back on it now, I would pay a salary to coach and learn under Steve, and be able to steal those ideas that he used up in Oakland. And I’m putting all those into what I am as a coach now. Obviously, when I took that assistant job, you start paying attention to everything. You write things down. You see how this works and that works and “If I talk to this player…” and what needs to be done and what doesn’t work and when there’s slippage and when you see all this stuff and start forming who you are. But yes, the last two years have been a huge influence in that.
Q: On what he wants to take from Golden State:
Walton: There’s a ton of them. One: We have to compete. We have to love to compete. We have to love to win. But by doing that, you have to love the process. You have to love the details of the game. You have to hold players accountable. They have to want to hold themselves accountable. To me, you succeed as a coaching staff when you can give your players more and more freedom. Even though that may look like you’re doing less coaching, that means they’re taking ownership for what they’re doing. And when they’re taking ownership they get mad when they mess up. You have to make it fun for them. Basketball’s meant to be a game of joy. And if you can provide that environment and make guys want to come in and bust their tail every day in practice and work harder because they’re enjoying it, then they look forward to coming in the gym every day. And that’s what we had up in Oakland for the past two years. We play music during warmups and we scrimmage and we cancelled practice to go have a bowling tournament in the middle of the winter in Minnesota one time. There are little things like this that we can do to keep things fresh and keep the guys constantly entertained, because all of you guys know what it’s like in the NBA schedule. It’s long, it’s grueling. Guys get tired of seeing each other every day. So as a staff, it’s our job to find different ways to keep that fresh and keep them wanting to come in and work hard.
Q: On his thoughts on the upcoming draft and free agency:
Walton: It’s been hard because obviously I want to be down here doing all that stuff, but I couldn’t. When I had a day off or if I was done with my responsibility for the Warriors that day, I would call Mitch (Kupchak) and we would talk. They’ve been sending me emails of workouts they’ve had here and things like that. But in all honesty, I haven’t had enough time or enough information to make these decisions. But the people that have — Mitch, the Buss family, all the other people involved in these decisions — they’ve been here busting their tail every day looking at all this stuff. I’m very confident that they’re going to be able to fill me in quickly and make good decisions.
Q: On the current players on the roster:
Walton: They beat us this year. They’re one of the few teams that knocked us off this year, and you could see that joy in them when they did it. They were running up and down and playing a fun brand of basketball. They each have their own unique skill set. That’s why you get here. It’s why they were high draft picks. You can’t make it this far on anything else. Obviously when I can get on the court and see the day-to-day stuff I’ll get to know them even more. But everything I’ve seen about them and when talked with them on the telephone, they seem like a great group of guys. From a coaching standpoint, that’s exciting.
Q: On if he was surprised at how soon he became the Lakers’ head coach:
Walton: I was a little surprised how quick it happened, but I knew that with the success we had when Steve was out and being 39-4, that there was going to be be job offers. I wasn’t shocked at all that there were job offers out there. Me being such a fan of this organization and growing up in this organization and winning championships with them, when I got a job offer and went home and realized that it was from the L.A. Lakers, that kind of blew my mind a little bit.
Q: On his involvement with the Lakers’ Summer League team:
Walton: We’ve discussed that a little bit. Obviously my season just ended two days ago and those weren’t things that we were talking about during the Finals. But I will be out there in Las Vegas being heavily involved in practice and we’ll figure out more from there. But I’ll be out there.
Q: On his plan for putting together a coaching staff:
Walton: To get one in place (laughs). Again, these are all things that normally would have been taken care of by now, but because of the circumstances — and the Lakers being so great about understanding that and not pressing me, knowing that I had work to do — we’re still slowly working on that. We’re going to have a staff in place and we’ll present them to you when that’s taken care of. But I would imagine most of that is done before Summer League starts.
Q: On taking over after the retirement of Kobe Bryant:
Walton: Twenty years and one of the greatest runs in any sport by any athlete. He’s obviously going to be missed. But his departure also opens up this opportunity for the next generation of Lakers and the next movement that I think will be exciting, not only to the young players but to free agents. It will be different. It will be strange, but I would still expect Kobe to be around and showing up and doing different things for the organization. I haven’t been told that, but that would be my guess. But it’ll be strange going out there and playing games without him, but that’s how sports work. While we lose that, you also gain some excitement about opportunities for new players.
Q: On what he learned from Bryant:
Walton: That’s easy: his work ethic. He was the hardest working player that I’ve ever played with. When you have superstars that are willing to work that hard, it sets and incredible tone. And it did for us as his teammates. I’ve seen it with Steph Curry up in Golden State now; MVP of the league, — is in the gym every day shooting. The work ethic that I saw that (Bryant) had and I learned from him, I will be bringing into this job.
Q: On if he had an opportunity to say goodbye to the Warriors:
Walton: No, there was no time. Like Mitch said, there was an opportunity (to end the season) a couple times that we had, but with Game 7 ending on Sunday and the Draft being Thursday, I gave some nice hugs to people. But most of that was about the pain we were feeling from losing that championship. I had a nice moment with Steve, obviously, afterward. But there was no official goodbye. But at some point I have to go back up there to pack up the house. Whoever’s around I’ll take to dinner and we’ll have that moment.
Q: On what he takes away from losing in the NBA Finals:
Walton: There’s obviously always things to learn in defeat. Right now, it’s still too fresh to know what those things are. I haven’t brought myself to watch the game over again yet. But a lot of times those go back two, three games to what you could have done differently. At some point I’ll get there. I’m not there yet, though.
Q: On the pros and cons of being a young coach:
Walton: Obviously experience is great in any job in this world. I think that Steve and other coaches have proven that it’s not a necessity to succeed, but it’s definitely something that’s important. I know I can relate to the young players. I did it up in Oakland for the past two years. That’s because I think that I can understand what they go through. I try to put myself in their shoes when there are difficult things happening. These will be strengths and advantages, but that doesn’t all fall on me. That’s on the whole staff that we have here. In putting together a staff, you try to find different people that are good at different things. We’re going to do that here, and I think we’ll have all bases covered by the time it’s all said and done.
Q: On his message to potential free agents:
Walton: That the future’s bright. We’re gonna play an up-tempo game. We’re gonna bring in another top draft pick this year and hopefully get a solid player at (pick) 32. And we have money to spend. I know the Buss family and I know the Lakers organization. They do what it takes to win. That, to me, is all you really need to know. I don’t see why you wouldn’t want to come here and play.
Q: On what he has learned from Phil Jackson and Lute Olson:
Walton: Lute was huge on the details of the game. He would stop practice 35 times in one day. Until you got something correct, he was going to continue to stop it. On the other side, Coach Jackson was brilliant about the overall picture and the flow of the game and how one play can affect the next six minutes. It was completely different than Coach Olson but both incredible lessons.
Q: On how often he attended Jackson’s coaches meetings as a player:
Walton: Not at all until I hurt my back (in 2010) and then Phil saw that I was a little on the depressed side and started including me on some of those things. It was interesting. I enjoyed it. I wasn’t making decisions, but I was just sitting in there and watching and seeing that side of it. As a player, you have no idea what all goes into the preparation and the breakfast meetings and making these decisions. You just see the final result as a player. So it was an enjoyable experience when they allowed me to do that.
Q: On if Jackson has given him any advice on being a head coach:
Walton: He gives me advice in life a lot. But we have not spoken since I took this, I don’t think.
Q: On adapting Golden State’s system to the Lakers’ roster:
Walton: I think it’s a coach’s job to build the system around what’s best for the players you have. Obviously you can have a culture where competing at a high level no matter what is what you do. You can somewhat control the idea that we’re going to play a fast-tempo, fast-pace style of game. Obviously if you have two seven-footers and you play them at the same time, that’s not what you want to do. But that’s not the case here. We have skilled guards that can score, pass, defend. We have a young big man (Julius Randle) who averaged over 10 rebounds a game this year and is great at pushing the ball himself. These are all things that are great and allow us to do similar things to what we were doing up in Oakland. Obviously you can’t replace Steph and Klay (Thompson’s) shooting, but we have shooters here. We’re going to have the floor spaced and we have playmakers and we’ll obviously get more into detail as we have the team and we see them and see what their strengths and weaknesses are. But you the foundation set and you kind of adjust it depending on the strengths and weaknesses of your personnel.
Q: On what he learned while serving as Golden State’s interim coach for the first half of the season:
Walton: That I absolutely love this job. Besides playing, it’s the most fun I’ve had in doing anything else in my life.
Q: On if he began thinking about coaching when Jackson had him sit in on meetings with the coaches:
Walton: That’s kind of when it really started. Phil told me the story about how he got started with an injury and his old coach had him kind of hang around. So it kind of triggered some thoughts in my head. But when you’re playing and you’re young, you don’t really ever think about anything but playing. You think you’re going to play forever. That was kind of the first time that it hit home that this thing is going to come to an end.
Q: On his father, Bill, saying that he shouldn’t take the Lakers job:
Walton: (Laughs) I love my father. Sometimes he has great advice and sometimes he doesn’t. He also told me to never get into coaching in the first place because the lifestyle is too crazy, and I love coaching. So I didn’t listen to him on that and obviously I’ve had a successful start to this thing. You’ll see him in the hallways wearing Lakers shirts that are too small for him and chanting “Lakers” and all sorts of things that we’ve come to love about him. But he’s also going to speak his mind when asked questions. So you pick and choose the advice to listen to.
Q: On how he is different from Kerr:
Walton: There are a bunch of little things. I think, if you’re generally going to describe coaching styles, Steve and I would be very similar, which is part of the reason he hired me. We had a phone conversation and he asked me three questions. He told me all three of his answers were the same to those questions, so he offered me the job over the phone. So we see the game very similar. Obviously the way we interact with players is a little different. There are sometimes in timeout that I’ll say, “Steve, we should do this,” and he’ll be like, “No, I want to do this.” There are differences you can get into, but for the most part I think we’re cut from the same set of cloth.
Q: On his approach to analytics:
Walton: To me, they’re great for supporting different ideas. I believe in having a staff give their opinions and building a game plan together. Then you can bring those analytics in to kind of support or prove something wrong. We used them in Golden State. I plan on using them down here. If they bring us numbers that show us something we haven’t been thinking of, now all of a sudden we have a new topic to discuss and maybe that changes our game plan going forward. So they’ll be part of what we do.
Q: On if he considered offers from other teams:
Walton: I was planning on meeting with some other teams, but when your dream job comes and you feel like it’s a fair deal and a fair offer and you go home and talk to your wife, you air out the pros and the cons. When it came to the Lakers, it was a pretty short, simple conversation. There was no need to interview any other jobs after that.
Q: On how long he thinks it will take to get the Lakers competitive:
Walton: I have no idea. There is work to be done, but that’s, to me, exciting. It’s why you do this. The timetable is — who knows? It’s us coming to work every day. It’s us working hard. It’s watching improvement in the young guys. That’s exciting. It’s watching us get better as a team that I’m looking forward to doing. There are going to be free agents to sign. We don’t know what free agents those are going to be yet. So that would affect that timeline. But we are going to get better. And if you focus on the process of getting better individually and as a team and you don’t worry about the wins, that’s when the wins start happening. That’s when the wins start piling up and that’s when you make playoff runs, because it’s those little things that are the difference between winning and losing games. It’s those little things, that when you win the entire thing, make it so special. Because it’s hard work to do all that stuff. But that’s where we’re at, and we’re going to take joy in our job.
Q: On if the Golden State players teased him about taking the Lakers job:
Walton: Yes, absolutely. I encourage it. I give a lot of needling. I deserve it back when it’s my turn. But they were all very supportive. Everyone knows how this business is. Your team that you have from one year, from coaches to player, is never going to be the same. Whether it’s the 15th guy on the team that changes, every team is unique. Every year takes on it’s own life. You just enjoy those moments. Obviously mine was two years up there. Now it’s moving on and I’ve had nothing but support from the other staff members and from the players throughout this whole process.
Q: On if he finds it weird that his official coaching record is 0-0 despite going 39-4 as interim coach at Golden State:
Walton: Life’s not fair, but I think I’ve been on the good side of fair for most of my life (laughs). So I’m not going to complain about stuff like that. It’s the decision that was made, but 0-0 still helped me get my dream job. So I’m fine with the record being what it is and sitting here in front of you guys today. So it worked out fine for me.
Q: On how much it mattered for him to move back to a place that he loves to live in with his family:
Walton: Obviously you don’t make this kind of decision without getting permission from your wife first. I don’t know a bunch, but I know that much. To me, that’s not a huge part of it. You can make home wherever as long as you have the right people with you. The special part of this was more doing it with the organization and the fans that you build these bonds with here in L.A. more so than the fact that I enjoy spending time in Manhattan Beach.