Luke Walton, who helped the Lakers win two championships as a player, was named interim head coach of the Golden State Warriors on Thursday after Coach Steve Kerr took a leave of absence to recover from a second surgery to his back.
"At this point, the most important thing is to make sure Steve is healthy, completely recovered and ready for not only the rigors of a long NBA season, but day-to-day life in general," Warriors General Manager Bob Myers said in a statement. "We don't anticipate the recovery process will be long term, but as of today we don't know the exact time frame. We'll evaluate his progress daily and provide updates as necessary."
In his rookie year as a head coach, Kerr led the Warriors to their first NBA title in 40 years in June with a win over LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Kerr had surgery in July to repair a ruptured disk and had follow-up surgery in September.
Walton, who won titles as a player with the Lakers in 2009 and 2010, won a third in Golden State last season as an assistant.
"After the first two days of training camp, I realized I need to take a step back and focus on my rehabilitation in order to be ready for the grind of another NBA season," said Kerr. "As I noted last week, my summer was difficult and no fun due to the multiple back surgeries. At this point, I simply want to get healthy and back to my normal daily routine on and off the court."
The Lakers originally drafted Walton with the 32nd overall pick in the 2003 NBA draft. He was traded midway through his ninth season with the team to the Cavaliers for guard Ramon Sessions.
It's unclear how long Walton will head the Warriors' bench. While he'll be tested as head coach, Walton has the benefit of having guards Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, one of the best shooting backcourts in NBA history, to rely on.