Luke Walton has decided to leave Golden State to become the head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers.
Luke Walton on accepting the head coach position for the Lakers. pic.twitter.com/G5kbVDnN93— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) April 30, 2016
Walton had been connected to New York through his former mentor, Phil Jackson, but in the end all that ever came of it was a phone call and 3-4 days of bullshit "Will Phil Be Charged with Tampering?" thinkpieces.
As a potential head coach, Walton seemed to offer the best of both worlds -- that rapport with Jackson which the team president has deemed a mandate, as well as some experience with a more diversified offense during his tenure as an assistant to Steve Kerr in Golden State.
If you were a Knicks fan with high hopes for Walton this one's gotta hurt -- the Lakers could very well lose out on their 2016 draft pick (top-3 protected) and they are severely short of non-snitch assets (sorry, D'Angelo Russell). And yet the allure of the purple and gold remains. The Lakers and Pat Riley are the only two entities in the universe who can sit back with little more than cap space and hope to make things work. The Knicks simply do not have that kind of cachet in today's NBA, and neither Phil Jackson nor any other team president on Earth is going to change that until they start winning. Contrary to popular belief, his primary role isn't to flash his rings and mesmerize people into joining him -- it is to make good basketball decisions, or at least to avoid bad basketball decisions.
Which brings us, naturally, to Kurt Rambis. Phil Jackson is now operating without a safety net. He could have easily sold the world on the merits of his boy Walton, the charismatic, well-regarded assistant coach of the defending champs. If he still insists on hiring one of his guys, however, he'll face the wrath of the fans (and quite possibly the players) by hiring the incredibly unpopular Rambis.
Does the Zen Master even care what fans (or players) think? He must to a certain extent, otherwise he would have already handed Rambis the job. There are still a number of quality candidates out there -- Phil interviewed one just last week! -- but they are all outside Phil's circle of trust. There is always Brian Shaw, but if Phil considered the unemployed former Nuggets coach an option he probably would have interviewed him by now. Will the Knicks interview anyone else? It doesn't seem that way ... but, hey, two weeks ago few people believed David Blatt would get a real interview. Phil has surprised us before.