Ranking 5 worst coaching hires in Los Angeles Lakers history

Luke Walton, Los Angeles Lakers (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Luke Walton, Los Angeles Lakers (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /
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Luke Walton, Los Angeles Lakers
Luke Walton, Los Angeles Lakers (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /

2. Luke Walton (2016-2019)

Returning to that destitute era of the Lakers we arrive at Luke Walton, who, like Jerry West, was a champion as a player with the Lakers before he took his shot on the sidelines. In 2016 after letting go of Byron Scott (more on him shortly), the Lakers hired Walton, who had been an assistant on Golden State’s 2015 title-winning team. The thinking was that someone working under Steve Kerr should be able to bring a winning mentality to the Lakers, but they were sadly mistaken.

Walton came into a Lakers team in flux in 2016: this would be the first season without Kobe Bryant since 1995, Mitch Kupchak and Jim Buss were replaced by Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka in the front office, and Jeanie Buss took full control of the Lakers as primary owner. The previous season had been Bryant’s farewell tour and the franchise was clearly not focused on anything else as they won just 17 games all year.


That meant that the 26 wins in Walton’s first season were actually a significant improvement, especially considering his captain was 20-year-old D’Angelo Russell. The next year the Lakers improved again, winning 35 games behind a youthful team with tons of potential highlighted by future All-Stars Brandon Ingram, Brook Lopez, and Julius Randle as well as Josh Hart, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and Lonzo Ball.

The next year LeBron James entered the Lakers fray and Walton probably thought that he was about to hitch a ride to another NBA championship. But alas, he could not figure out how to get the 34-year-old LeBron to connect with the team’s young core and the team missed the playoffs again. It was the first time in 13 years that NBA fans would not see LeBron in the playoffs and the first time since 2010 that he’d missed the NBA Finals.

Walton was a topic of friction between team president Magic Johnson, who wanted to fire him, and owner Jeanie Buss. This resulted in the departures of both Johnson and Walton, who had gone just 98-148 with zero playoff appearances in three years at the helm. The very next season, the Lakers would win the NBA title after a blockbuster trade for Anthony Davis. Go figure.