Thirty-eight years ago, Larry Finch and the Memphis State Tigers came up just short of a national championship. The primary reason, of course, was UCLA's Bill Walton, who hit 21 of 22 shots and scored 44 points in the championship game for the Bruins.
Now, in a full-circle development Hollywood might script, another Walton from Los Angeles appears to be headed to Memphis as an assistant coach.
Tiger coach Josh Pastner announced Monday that Luke Walton, a member of the 2009 and 2010 NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers (and Bill's son), has been recommended to join the Memphis men's basketball coaching staff. Walton’s hiring is pending approval by the U of M and Tennessee State Board of Regents.
In a release, Pastner said, “Luke is going to bring great excitement and great energy to the Tigers program, and we’re thrilled to have him. Luke is someone who has not only played for but also learned from arguably one of the greatest coaches in basketball history in Phil Jackson. Luke’s also played with and against the best-of-the-best at the highest level of basketball in the NBA, including being a teammate of one of the NBA’s all-time greats in Kobe Bryant.
“Luke will be a great coach because he brings a wealth of knowledge and a winning attitude to the Tigers program. His experiences, which include playing in four NBA Finals and winning two NBA championships, are lessons that he can share with our players to help them grow and develop their games.”
A 2003 second-round pick by the Lakers, Walton has played his entire NBA career in Los Angeles. In his eight seasons in the NBA, Walton is averaging 5.0 points, 2.9 rebounds and 2.3 assists. Walton, 31, will remain on the Tigers staff until (or if) the 2011-12 NBA season begins. He has two years left on his contract with the Lakers.