In the past week, names like Brian Shaw and Chris DeMarco have been floated as possible options as assistant coaches on Luke Walton’s staff. DeMarco is familiar with Walton due to ties with the Warriors where DeMarco is a player development coach after working in the video room and in advance scouting. Shaw, of course, has ties to Walton from their time with the Lakers where Shaw as an assistant while Luke a player on Phil Jackson’s teams.
Both guys fit the mold of the type of theoretical staff I would imagine Walton would build. They offer a mix of young and experienced, a guy who worked his way up through an organization and a former player who has championship experience on the floor and from the bench. Finding the right balance, I think, is vital for any staff, but especially for a coach like Walton who needs to surround himself with like minded guys, but also those with more experience with him who can offer a varied perspective and, at times, challenge him as he strives to improve as a first time head coach (and not just an interim one).
This is all speculation on my part, though. Luke Walton has not gone on the record of what he’s looking for in his staff and the names floated were, themselves, based on speculative reports from league and Warriors’ insiders. But while we don’t have insight from Luke, we do, luckily, have some from Mitch Kupchak who spoke with the media on Friday about Walton’s hiring. And in those comments, Kupchack hinted at the type of assistant Walton and the Lakers (who will have input on this) will be looking for.
Walton sees himself as the head coach and O coordinator; he’ll bring in a defensive coach to focus on that end of the court particularly.
— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) May 6, 2016
It should not be a surprise the Lakers would want a defensive specialist who can help Walton implement a scheme and teach the young players how to be more effective on that end of the floor. The Lakers were last in the league in defensive efficiency last season and saw their players make the same mistakes over and over again over the course of the season. Finding an assistant who can help establish better fundamentals and find ways to maximize the talents of the players is essential.
Beyond a defensive minded coach, though, the Lakers are also looking for someone who has experience in the role Walton himself will fill.
"Strong possibility" that Lakers will be looking for assistants with head coaching experience, Kupchak said.
— Bill Oram (@billoram) May 6, 2016
This, too, makes a lot of sense. Walton was great as the interim coach in Oakland while Steve Kerr recovered from multiple back surgeries, but he is still only 36 and has limited exposure to the league from the chair he will be sitting in next season. Having an assistant (or more) who have gone through what Walton will, have game management experience, have had to diagram plays in crunch time, and have had to organize their own staffs would serve as a nice support system for Walton. He can lean on them and use their experience to supplement his own — not only on the bench in game situations, but in coach’s meetings, in practices, the film room, etc.
In saying all that, though, I hope the Lakers and Walton do not fall into the trap of looking for/hiring a specific coach just because they check off a list of predetermined traits. Yes, experience would be nice. So would someone who can teach defense. But, ideally, Walton will fill his staff with the best candidates — people who are smart, can teach the game, and be a resource to him and the players in order to move the team forward and on the track back to competitiveness.
If that turns out to be guys like Shaw, David Blatt, Nate McMillan, or Frank Vogel (all of whom are candidates for current openings as head coaches and some of which will surely be hired as lead guys), that’s great. But if it ends up being career assistants, an up and comer or two, or a combination of both, that would be fine too if that’s what the process bore out.
The Lakers, too often, have found themselves looking to fill voids by targeting a certain type of candidate who fits a specific profile. Those limited searches probably did not produce the best hires. The goal is to get this right and, while I’m all for the idea of what the template Mitch Kupchak laid out represents, it’s not the only way to produce good results.