Luke Walton was back at Warriors practice Saturday, less than 24 hours after he left the facility, had the Los Angeles Lakers head coaching job offered to him, accepted it, then spent the evening at Steve Kerr's house watching Golden State's next playoff opponent, the Portland Trail Blazers.
No one is too surprised Walton will be the next Lakers coach, but the speed with which it all transpired was remarkable to all, including the man himself.
"I didn't think it would get done that quickly," Walton said. "But the meeting went well. They were talking to my agent afterwards and it was obviously a job I'm very interested in. So when they worked some things out _ obviously, it's tough to leave this place _ but I think it's one of those opportunities you can't pass up on."
Walton will continue to serve as Kerr's lead assistant through the playoffs, but it was clear that despite two very rewarding seasons with Golden State _ including a 39-4 stint as the head coach when Kerr took a medical leave of absence in the first half of the season _ much of his heart was still in L.A. The Warriors officially acknowledged that fact by including Randy Newman's "I Love L.A." as part of their daily musical mixtape at practice, and everybody got a good laugh out of it.
"The fact that I played for the Lakers, I feel part of that family," he said. "I still rooted for them. Even before I took the job, I watched Lakers games and hoped that they succeed and win. So it's kind of nice to be able to go back and try to help rebuild what we used to have there."
Kerr said he was shocked when Walton called him Friday to give him the lowdown.
"I was thinking this was going to drag out a week or two, they were going to want to interview some other people, they'd want to re-interview Luke," Kerr said. "But Luke called me about 4 o'clock or so and said, 'I've got good news and bad news.' I said, 'What's the good news?' He said, 'The Lakers offered me the job.' I said, 'Well, what's the bad news?' He said, 'I took it.' I said, 'You're right, that is bad news.'
"Obviously, he's thrilled for the opportunity and he's going to be great," Kerr continued. "But it's bad news for all of us because you can't replace Luke. He's one of a kind. They broke the mold after they made Luke. We're going to miss him desperately. He's such a huge part of our culture and so much fun to be around."
In his two seasons with the Warriors, Walton developed close relationships with a number of the players, most notably forward Draymond Green. Walton personally called Green and a few other players before the news was released to give them advance warning. Green admitted he took the news hard.
"I'm excited for him, but at the same time, this does sting a little bit," he said. "He's been very important to me, from workouts to a guy who's telling me everything I'm doing wrong. He sees the position because he played it, so he sees everything that I do and can critique it for me. He was also someone I could vent to ... that's how our relationship initially started."
Walton said he wanted to inform the players he was closest to so they could hear it from him and not from outside sources.
"You build a bond with them and a closeness and it's like calling your mother, you don't want her to find out on the bottom ticker," he said. "I couldn't call everybody, but I reached out to Draymond, I talked to Andre (Iguodala), guys that have just been huge in helping me develop as a coach."
Walton admitted that stepping in for Kerr over the first half of the season was crucial in him feeling like he was ready to take on a head coaching assignment.
"There was a lot of value in that," he said. "That was a great learning experience as far as what I'll need as far as setting things up and getting going. There's just no way to gain that knowledge without going through it, and I was lucky enough to have that opportunity, even though it came from a terrible situation."