Walton robbed of his place in NBA history

Steve Brenner 11:06 07/12/2015
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Incredible run: Luke Walton.

It’s a question which will surely take residence in the basketball quiz hall of fame. Who won coach of the month without winning a game? The answer, quite ludicrously, is Golden State’s Luke Walton.

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The man who is helping create NBA history by leading the reigning champions on a blockbusting unbeaten start to the season will not have his work officially recognised in the record books.

According to League guidelines, unless you’ve replaced someone who has been sacked, a stand-in coach isn’t awarded wins. So while Steve Kerr remains sat at home recovering from back surgery (he may not return until February), his stats are looking superlative with every barnstorming performance from Steph Curry and his fellow Warriors.

Lawrence Frank’s record as the coach with the longest winning streak to start a career – 13-0 with the Nets in 2003 – has already been surpassed. What a shame however, that it will not be recognised.

The NBA stats office, though, must be delighted at the tough stance adopted by their bosses. If the rules were altered, years of mind-numbing recalculations would follow.

For example, Don Nelson, the NBA’s leader in coaching victories, had over 10 wins added to his tally in matches which saw an interim boss take charge.

With second placed Lenny Wilkens just three victories behind, history would need to be rewritten with a huge can of worms springing open as a result. It’s without doubt a bizarre grey area.

No sooner had the NBA announced the decision to stick by the regulations while confirming those with a sparkling 0-0 record could indeed be honoured with a monthly award. Cue the naming of Walton as the finest Western Conference coach for November. They were 21 and 0 ahead of last night’s trip to Brooklyn. Their average margin of victory is the highest in the League. Golden State are glowing.

“I’m sitting in the locker room and watching the games on TV, and I’m not even travelling to most of the road games,” Kerr said. “Luke’s doing all the work with the rest of the staff. So it’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard, to be honest.”

Of course, the seeds were expertly sown by Kerr, himself a rookie boss last season, and beautifully came to fruition with that title win over the Cleveland Cavaliers. The squad rotation implemented continues to pay dividends. The lines of communication have been wide open during his spell on the sidelines.

Walton, however, has had to make all of the in-game decisions while picking the correct moments to unleash the fantastic five of Draymond Green, Harrison Barnes, Andre Iguodala, Klay Thompson and Curry. The notion of anyone being able to simply stroll into the hot-seat and let the players do the rest is nonsense and an affront to the coaching skills of the man clearly destined for the very top.

If anything, taking over a team like the Warriors, could potentially be more difficult. The players are on a crest of a wave. How do you keep the desire burning? Will they listen? Will they respect you? How can someone like Curry, a player already looking nailed on to being named MVP for a second successive season, be improved?

Walton, at just 35, found himself in a daunting position. Yet he has risen to the challenge quite superbly. This is no fluke. He was part of the Warriors coaching set-up during the last campaign while working under the legendary Phil Jackson at the LA Lakers and has always been tipped for coaching stardom.

Seeing Kerr work at close quarters has undoubtedly rubbed off on him. “Steve’s done a lot for me. It’s the least I can do to add a couple wins on his total for him with all he’s done for me,” said the world’s finest caretaker boss.

The son of Hall-of-Famer Bill Walton, his first foray into coaching came in the NCAA at Memphis during the NBA lockout of 2011. Walton returned to the Lakers once the dispute was settled though his playing days were coming to an end. He spent the 2013-14 season as an assistant on the Lakers Development League team before joining Kerr last year.

On this evidence, he won’t be in Oakland this time next year. Official wins or not, the offers for a head coach role will soon start rolling in.

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