In front of a throng of reporters, the Los Angeles Lakers finally formally introduced new head coach Luke Walton on Tuesday.
"I know it's been a while. We signed this contract a few months ago," Walton, who had been the Golden State Warriors' lead assistant until Sunday night's Game 7 of the NBA Finals, said as he sat as a coach in front of a Lakers' banner for the first time. "Thank you for being patient and understanding that I had a job to finish up there."
Walton added, "But now that that job is done, I am absolutely thrilled to be able to come back down here and have my dream job, which is to coach the LA Lakers—a team I've played for; a team I've won championships with; a team that drafted me."
Walton repeatedly harped on his excitement over the Lakers' young roster chalked full of talent, the wealth of cap space available for free agency and the draft picks coming up for Thursday's NBA Draft.
"I couldn't be more excited about this opportunity," Walton said.
"Everything excites me," He continued. "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 an organization and a team that I love and I grew up with, it's all exciting to me."
Walton's hire has been met with widespread support not only for his attachment to the organization but also because of the style of basketball the fan base expects him to import. After two years of a slowed down, painful Byron Scott tenure as the boss on the sidelines, Walton's words felt like hearing music after two years of being deaf. Online, the fans ate up every word.
Get Los Angeles's latest local news on crime, entertainment, weather, schools, COVID, cost of living and more. Here's your go-to source for today's LA news.
"We're going to put our stamp on the culture that we want," Walton said. "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 LA fans will appreciate. We're going to compete."
The new coach said he had been thinking about being a head coach since his playing days had ended and cited former University of Arizona coach Lute Olsen, former Lakers coach Phil Jackson and even his high school coach Jim Thome as influencers on the style of coach he wanted to be.
"Being able to coach under Steve Kerr for the last two years, looking back on it now, I would have paid a salary to coach under Steve and learn under Steve and be able to steal those ideas that he used up in Oakland," Walton, who said that his basketball philosophy was very similar to Kerr's, added. "And I'm putting all those into who I am as a coach now."
Walton related that his last two years in Oakland had been immensely important to the formation of his coaching philosophy, and the 36-year-old said that taking ownership of the details of the game and enjoying the process of developing was an important for both coaches and the players. Providing the environment where guys enjoy working hard during the night of the long, cold winter was of the utmost importance to the new Lakers' maestro. Though officially inexperienced, Walton sounded like a man in love with his job.
"I absolutely love this job," he said. "Besides playing, it's the most fun I've had in doing anything else in my life."
After being an assistant with the Warriors for their title run during the 2014-15 season, Walton coached the 2015-16 team to a 39-4 start before giving over control to Kerr. Eventually, the Warriors would finish the regular season with a record 73-9 mark. However, Walton's official record was still 0-0.
The coach quipped, "Life's not fair, but I think I've been on the good side of fair for most of my life, so I'm not going to complain about stuff like that…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 your guys here."
With regards to his duties of filling out his staff or scouting the upcoming draft, Walton admitted that he simply had not been as involved as he would have liked to have been. Coaching for an NBA title provided an acceptable excuse, as point guard D'Angelo Russell's words echoed to reporters after the press conference concluded.
"I trust the process." Russell, who was standing and speaking with unofficial new assistant coach Brian Shaw in the back of the press conference, said to reporters Walton walked away from the mic. "The process is being one of those finals and playoff contenders, and he knows what it takes. He's got a coaching staff around him so far that has definitely been part of it, and they know what it takes."
Russell added, "I'm just a sponge to everything these guys have to offer."
For Walton, the immediate future involves preparing for Thursday's NBA Draft before jumping into free agency in July.
"The future is bright," Walton shared his free agent pitch with reporters. "We're going to play an up-tempo game. We're going to bring in another top draft pick this year and hopefully get a solid player at (draft pick no.) 32. And we have money to spend, and I know the Buss family and I know the Laker organization. And they do what it takes to win. That's, to me, all you really need to know."
Walton concluded, "I wouldn't see why you wouldn't want to come here and play."