As the honeymoon period subsided, Walton has been patient with his players and their relative inexperience at the pro level, but after a 122-73 loss to the Dallas Mavericks in January, he started to challenge his squad.
Around that point, he said to the media that he was hesitant to bring back his former teammate Bryant to help with the crop of youngsters, citing that they might not respond well to tough love.
Things have changed and Magic Johnson is now the President of Basketball Operations with the Purple and Gold after Jeanie Buss relieved her brother Jim of his duties.
Magic has stated the desire to bring the Black Mamba back into the fold with the club and now Walton is thinking similar thoughts.
In a conversation with Bill Simmons on his podcast, the Lakers coach told a story about practices with Bryant and how he hopes to incorporate some of the legend’s methods in his own sessions.
He said: “He would talk trash at you and he would get the competitive level up to a place where all of a sudden you’re going as hard as you can, because that’s what you do as a competitor. I think the way he approached practice was really good for us as a team.
“Oh, I love it. I love it now. I try to manipulate the practices to get them to be that competitive. I’ve called even Phil a few times and been like, come on coach. Give me something here.
“But I know he would purposely not give Kobe foul calls. And Kobe would go nuts. He would lose it. Cussing people out. But that’s what Phil wanted to do, he wanted to bring that out of him.”
The two-time champion is looking for inspiration in any place that he can find it now that he’s at the helm of these young players.
Trying a gentler hand hasn’t gotten the results necessary and now it may be time for a change. If winning is the ultimate goal, there aren’t many greater winners in franchise history than the Black Mamba.
In the end, finding the next Kobe or a superstar to take the reins might be more prudent than frustrating the existing roster.