Looking up on the Los Angeles Staple center rafters, the 16 NBA championship banners are waving gently. As a breath of fresh air subtly moves towards it.
The Lakers new head coach, Luke Walton had a daunting task of adding another championship banner to make it into 17 and to tie with the Boston Celtics as the winningest franchise in NBA history. Even as an interim coach for the Golden State Warriors last season having an outstanding record of 39-4 before Steve Kerr took over. Luke at 36 years old is still an enigma on how he can make this bottom dweller team into a contender.
Luke’s best coaching is often the absence of coaching. It is not just about the X and O’s it is all about building personal integrity. What you are as a person is far more important than what you are as a player. He has been inspired by his father Bill who is one of NBA’s best center in the 70s and 80s. Bill was coach by John Wooden in his college days wherein his team won an 88-game winning streak. And Wooden taught his players everything they need to know but not about basketball but about life. When the Lakers scoring point guard D’Angelo Russell splashed a 3 point shot that prompted the Brooklyn Nets to call a timeout last Nov. 15. Russell jogged back to the bench and high-five the reserves when Walton called his attention and pointed to his trailing teammates, D’Angelo turn around and made sure he high-five each of them first. Somehow Walton is trying to create an identity to his young team, and putting up a culture that promotes collaboration and respect between players and coaches.
During his interim gig with the Warriors, college coaches and scouts came in to practice with their pens and notepads out, hoping to get some noteworthy plays, and yet they ended up disappointed with the loud music playing on the gym and players doing half court shots and having fun. If it takes more wasted practice to goofed around just to build camaraderie and chemistry, then Walton would take that chance. Phil Jackson who has been Walton’s coach for 9 years with the Lakers, would use precious practice time to have his players sit on the floor in the dark and meditate for hours. Building the muscle of the mind so that his players can clear away emotionally and mentally unhealthy pressure and perform at a highest level.
Everything is still a process. It would take months and a bucket of losses for the Lakers to get into the championship level. Luke Walton is not in a hurry though.
After all, he is building boys to be men.