When Luke Walton was hired as head coach of the Lakers in April of 2016, he was expected to lead the storied franchise back to prominence.
Walton had just spent two seasons as an assistant on Steve Kerr's coaching staff with the Warriors and guided the defending champs to a 39-4 record while Kerr dealt with side effects from offseason back surgery.
But Walton never had success in Los Angeles. His high-water mark during his three years was 37 wins last season, and he was fired after the season.
Magic Johnson, who unexpectedly quit as president of basketball operations for the Lakers on April 9, went on FS1's "Undisputed" and was asked if there was anything owner Jeanie Buss could have done differently to keep Johnson in the fold.
"If I could have just made the calls that I wanted to make," Johnson said. "Luke was not ready at that time. But I'm happy for him. He went to Sacramento. He's going to do a great job. Sometimes, you get fired and you do a better job. I know there was conflict. It was tough. Look, he's an ex-Laker, I'm an ex-Laker, and [Jeanie] loves both of us to death. But hey, she made a call, I made a decision and now we gotta move on."
That wasn't the only shade Johnson threw Walton's way. When talking about his decision to quit, the Hall of Famer said he didn't believe Walton was the right coach for the Lakers.
"I went home and for two nights, I couldn't sleep," Johnson said. "I said 'Earvin, what are you doing?' You're putting her a tough position and I looked up and I said 'I really don't need this.' I said 'I'm here for the right reasons, but I don't need it.' So let me step aside, let her go back to making the decisions, not being a tough position because she likes me and likes Luke.
"I'm sure she's had some sleepless nights as well because I was putting pressure on her, you know, 'We gotta make this move,' and we're trying to win the championship and I don't think he was a championship coach."
"Luke Walton was not ready at that time...we were trying to win the Championship, and I don't think he was a championship coach." - @MagicJohnson pic.twitter.com/P4GyRGK9d3— UNDISPUTED (@undisputed) October 25, 2019
Those are damning words from someone like Johnson, who is an NBA icon.
But the Kings are hoping Walton makes Johnson eat his words. They hired the 39-year-old as their new coach almost as soon as the Lakers fired him, and Sacramento expects to go places with this new partnership.
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With a young core anchored by De'Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Marvin Bagley and Harrison Barnes, the Kings feel Walton is the guy to lead the franchise back to the postseason for the first time since 2006.
If Walton isn't a championship coach as Johnson believes, the Kings have a problem on their hands.