Meet the Staff: Jud Buechler
Fourteen years after retiring from basketball, Jud Buechler has his first coaching gig in the NBA.
The 48-year-old last played with Orlando in 2002 before turning his full attention over to his two daughters, whom he raised in his native San Diego.
Buechler — a three-time NBA champion — put all of his effort into being there for Reily and Brynn, which meant volunteering twice a week when they were in elementary school. And while he wasn’t coaching in the NBA at this time, he was calling the plays for his girls’ soccer, basketball and volleyball teams.
That last sport is especially important to Jud, who was an All-American volleyball player at the University of Arizona, where he met his wife, Lindsey — a setter on the women’s team.
Now, Reily is the one burying kills for UCLA women’s volleyball, while Brynn has followed in her parents’ path to U of A.
With his nest empty, Jud felt the urge to get back on the hardwood.
Fortunately, his good friend, Luke Walton, took over as head coach of the Lakers this summer and saw Buechler’s energy and experience as a worthy addition to the coaching staff.
Tasked with player development, Buechler plans to draw from lessons learned over a dozen seasons, including during the second three-peat of Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls.
“I’m just going to use my experience as a player,” Buechler said. “I played 12 years in the NBA and was on some really bad teams and probably the greatest team ever with the Bulls. I’ve won 23 games, I’ve won 72. So I think I have the experience and know what it takes both on the court and off the court — what the locker room should feel like in a winning situation.”
Buechler himself will certainly contribute to that environment through his natural positivity.
A 6-foot-6 tower of energy, Buechler fits perfectly into Walton’s vision for making the practice court a feel-good place where players want to come to work.
“I’ve been told I’m the most positive person on the planet,” Buechler said, beaming. “I don’t know if I am or not, but I think positive energy’s huge, especially with a young group of guys. We’re not going to win every game, and losing is really tough on young players and on teams in this league. So we just need to stay the course, (think) more big picture and enjoy the process of getting better.”
As somebody who has played on seven different NBA teams, Buechler has seen plenty of different coaching styles, and he likes the approach that Walton has chosen to take.
“I think Luke’s big vision with all the coaches has been: Everyone has a big voice in all that we’re doing,” Buechler said. “I’ve heard of other situations where it’s kind of just the head coach doing all the talking … but Luke’s been great with giving everybody a voice.”
Sometimes, however, a voice can only do so much.
Many of the coaches on Walton’s staff are still spry enough to get on the court and teach the players through action. Buechler is sure to point out that Walton, 36, is one of the many willing to step on the wood for a lesson.
“How many head coaches are out there playing and not only telling the guys, ‘This is how I want it done,’ but actually getting out there and playing and showing them just how it’s done,” Buechler said of the league’s youngest head coach.
Buechler grew up a Lakers fan but never made his way to Los Angeles during his playing career.
Now, he considers his job “a dream come true” and is excited about the prospect of helping to shape the team’s future.
And while the overwhelming majority of that positivity is just him being his natural self, he also feels it spreading around as the staff and players get ready to start the 2016-17 season.
“I’ve seen it right away: These guys are looking Luke in the eye and believing everything about his philosophy and what he’s bringing to the team,” Buechler said. “It’s huge to have a young, vibrant coach like that whose obviously had success through his career and just won a championship two years ago.”
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