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Lakers' Luke Walton continues to coach from afar

LAKERS FYI

Walton, who served as a temporary assistant at the University of Memphis during the NBA lockout, still corresponds with some players and the Tigers' coach.

January 01, 2012|By Ben Bolch
  • Lakers forward Luke Walton talk to guard Kobe Bryant during their final preseason game against the Clippers.
Lakers forward Luke Walton talk to guard Kobe Bryant during their final… (Alex Gallardo / Associated…)

Reporting from Denver -- Luke Walton has learned that a coach's work is never done.

Nearly a month after he left his job as a temporary assistant at the University of Memphis to rejoin the Lakers, Walton continues to coach from afar.

"I get random texts from certain [players] and after a game, if I'm able to watch it, I'll send some texts out to some of the guys with some thoughts," Walton said.

College basketball used to be an afterthought to Walton except during the NCAA tournament. Not anymore.

Now Walton said he will watch the Tigers whenever he can, even if it means finding a sports bar with satellite television. He also continues to correspond with Memphis Coach Josh Pastner, a former teammate of Walton's at Arizona.

Walton coached in his last game with Memphis against Austin Peay on Dec. 3 before returning to Los Angeles after the NBA lockout ended. That meant he missed the Tigers' trip to play at then-No. 4 Louisville on Dec. 17.

"I wanted to go to Louisville bad," said Walton, who was replaced on Pastner's staff by longtime NBA and college coach Jimmy Williams.

Memphis started the season ranked No. 10 but is now unranked and 8-5 heading into its final nonconference game Wednesday against Tennessee.

Walton said working as an assistant intensified his interest in coaching after his playing career ends. He is under contract for two more seasons with the Lakers.

"It was a lot more challenging than I thought — the hours were a lot longer than I realized," Walton said, "but I had a real good time doing it so it definitely made my interest level go up."

Shouldering a burden

Pau Gasol said his sprained right shoulder had not improved much since he injured it in the Lakers' opener. It hasn't helped that the power forward has had to play six games in eight days.

"I'm fighting through it and I'm used to it now," said Gasol, who acknowledged that his shoulder hurt when he slept in certain positions. "It's not getting worse, so that's a plus.

"You just try to go through it and suck it up and just hope that one day it gets better somehow."

The name game

Denver's George Karl coached World B. Free in the mid-1980s in Cleveland but told reporters he preferred the name Metta World Peace because "I like the idea of World Peace."

Mike Brown, World Peace's coach with the Lakers, concurred.

"I don't know if I was old enough to watch World B. Free play," Brown said.

Free, who was born Lloyd B. Free, retired from the NBA in 1988 after a 13-year career. World Peace said Free's name change did not influence his decision to switch his name from Ron Artest.

ben.bolch@latimes.com

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