Hall of Fame basketball player Bill Walton is about as passionate a fan of the Golden State Warriors as there is on the planet. Appearing Saturday at a Steiner Sports memorabilia show at Adelphi University, Walton went on ESPN Radio and led repeated loud Warriors cheers throughout the interview.
Of course, his son Luke is the top Warriors assistant coach under head coach Steve Kerr and already has accepted the job as new head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers. But before Luke Walton took the Lakers job, he was considered a potential candidate for the Knicks job that eventually went to Jeff Hornacek.
Asked if he advised his son about his career path, Bill Walton said, “I’m a huge Phil Jackson fan, and I love New York. But I’m just Luke’s dad. All the decisions and choices are up to him.”
Walton said his friendship with Knicks president Jackson goes back 42 years, and there is nothing he would like more than to see Jackson succeed in making the Knicks matter again. “He’s one of my all-time heroes and one of my best friends,” Walton said. “What Phil Jackson is doing here is trying to build a positive culture of success based on foundational principles of excellence and substance. I am extremely happy he has the job he does because I’m a New York fan, and I want him to succeed.
“I think this should be a most favorable place to succeed. This is such a powerful city with incredible resources and opportunities, and the dream of being part of something very special at the highest levels.”
Walton was included in Steiner’s “Perfect Show” because he was part of two UCLA teams that went 30-0, including the 1973 team that defeated Memphis in the championship game when Walton made 21 of 22 shots and scored 44 points. He said Golden State’s big star Stephen Curry has to be prepared to seize the moment in Game 7 on Sunday against Cleveland.
Asked how he did that in the NCAA title game against Memphis, Walton smiled and said, “Coach (John) Wooden always told me, ‘Walton, I used to think you were a good player until you missed that one shot.’ There’s nothing like the grand stage, nothing like the biggest moments. Look at Joe Montana and Jerry West and Bob Griese, I mean, they were at their best when their best was needed. You learn, you train yourself, you prepare to love pressure.”