Luke Walton recalls his early coaching experience at Memphis with Tarik Black

Lakers Coach Luke Walton talks with his players during the first half of a game against the Grizzlies on Dec. 3.
(Brandon Dill / Associated Press)

The city of Memphis played an important role in Lakers Coach Luke Walton’s path to coaching.

In 2011 Walton, then a Lakers forward, served as an assistant coach with the University of Memphis while the lockout that delayed the start of the 2011-12 NBA season was in effect. It was here he realized if he was going to coach, it would be at the NBA level where he could really work with players.

“It was after I had some back [injury] stuff so I had given [coaching] a little thought,” Walton said. “I knew I wanted to find something I could be passionate about when I was playing basketball. I didn’t know if that was coaching or if it was coaching in the NBA, coaching college. The time I spent here and the time I was allowed to be with the players I really enjoyed. But because of the other stuff, it was also nice to realize the NBA was probably the way I wanted to go instead of college.”


One of the players Walton coached in Memphis was future Lakers backup center Tarik Black. Black agreed with Walton’s assessment of the limitations placed on how much NCAA athletes could work with coaches, even on a voluntary basis.

“All of the restrictions in college,” Black said. “Especially here, where you’re talking about a lot of the kids they recruited are inner city kids that need that attention, that need that help. They can’t do it on their own and their parents don’t have the means to do it as well and [coaches] can’t help. There’s nothing you can really do but just sit there and watch kids struggle. That doesn’t make any sense but it’s the NCAA for you.”

Black remembers working with Walton, who had instant credibility among the Memphis players due to his being an NBA player.

“The roster that we had here the year before, we all stayed, you’re talking about six, seven, eight guys who had legit NBA talent,” Black said. “… We just listened to him. We knew we had the potential to make it here. He was talking from his perspective, from an elevated, higher-knowledge perspective.”


Lakers forward Larry Nance Jr. missed Saturday’s game with a right knee contusion suffered Friday against Toronto. . . . Guard Jose Calderon’s strained right hamstring will be re-evaluated in Los Angeles after the Lakers return from their trip. . . . Guard Lou Williams’ 40-point game was the second-best of his career. He scored 44 in January against Oklahoma City.