Luke Walton Brings Fresh Start, Hope for Resurgence to Los Angeles Lakers

LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Lakers’ magic was in the air again, and it was electric.

For more than six hours Thursday, three men who love the Lakers huddled, bonded and believed that this historically glorious franchise could be restored to its most brilliantly gold sheen if an idealistic, imaginative and charismatic young man took over as its head coach.

Luke Walton wowed Lakers head of basketball operations Jim Buss and general manager Mitch Kupchak in that interview—making clear not just how much he wanted the job but how much he has learned about the craft of teaching team basketball since he last played for the Lakers in 2012. So Walton was hired Friday night, the Lakers cutting short a search they’d announced would be extensive, and Walton blowing off four scheduled interviews to be the head coach of NBA teams that didn’t move him emotionally.

It was downright romantic how connected Walton, Buss and Kupchak felt over what Walton could bring to the Lakers—or bring back to the Lakers. All of them believe in the power of the brand, and Lakers management is well aware of how Walton’s faith can validate that feeling in the team's frustrated fans…and perhaps also some skeptical free-agent talents.

Worth noting also is that Walton’s hiring might well serve as solid footing for Phil Jackson to stretch a long leg back toward the West next year. Walton adores his former coach, but the love is probably even stronger the other way—from Jackson toward Walton.

How that hierarchy would work remains to be seen, with Jackson wanting to run a front office, and this one currently led by Buss and Kupchak.

Lakers president Jeanie Buss, Jackson’s fiancee and Jim’s sister, did not make this decision on Walton, according to team sources. Jim Buss, once leading that radical movement to distance the Lakers from all things P...

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