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Luke Walton named NBA Coach of the Month despite being 'winless'

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'Winless' Walton named coach of the month (3:00)

ESPN senior NBA writer Marc Stein reacts to Luke Walton earning coach of the month honors even though he is not officially credited with any wins. (3:00)

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Luke Walton has more NBA Coach of the Month awards than official wins.

The Golden State Warriors interim coach was named the top coach in the Western Conference for October and November on Tuesday after leading the team to a record 19-0 start in place of the injured Steve Kerr.

While the NBA issued a statement earlier in the day reiterating that Kerr remains the head coach of record for Golden State, the league said Walton was eligible for the monthly award.

Kerr has been sidelined since training camp because of complications from offseason back surgery.

Walton expresses no angst over being winless, saying of Kerr, "Steve's done a lot for me. It's the least I can do to add a couple wins on his total for him with all he's done for me."

"I knew Luke would be a great coach when I hired him, but there is a huge jump from being a one-year assistant to being a head coach," Kerr said Tuesday. "I went through the same jump without even being an assistant. This stuff always comes down to talent. Do you have the talent? We have great talent. That's why we were the champs last year and why we're off to a great start this season."

There is no timeline for Kerr's return, but the defending champion Warriors have hardly missed a beat under Walton.

"I think it's ridiculous," Kerr told ESPN.com last week when asked about getting all of Walton's wins. "I'm sitting in the locker room and watching the games on TV, and I'm not even traveling to most of the road games. Luke's doing all the work with the rest of the staff. Luke is [19-0] right now. I'm not. So it's the dumbest thing I've ever heard, to be honest with you. I don't even understand it."

Walton's success as a coach comes as little surprise to those who played with him. Former Lakers teammate Kobe Bryant saw this in Walton when he was sidelined late in his career by a back injury and brought into the coaching circle by Phil Jackson.

"I told him he was the next Phil, because he was an average player with a messed-up back," Bryant said. "I used to rib him all the time about that, but honestly, he always had a really brilliant mind. He understood flow and tempo and spacing and how to manage a team the right way. So I couldn't be any happier for him. He looks very comfortable in that role. If you're going to have a mentor, Phil's a pretty good one."

With the Warriors' red-hot start, Walton has done something that even Jackson never accomplished in his decorated coaching career that featured a record 11 NBA titles -- even if he doesn't officially get the credit for it.

The Warriors have downplayed who deserves credit, with Walton praising the system Kerr put in place, Kerr praising Walton for the way he has run the team and the system.

"It is a complicated issue, but in the end, it really doesn't matter," Kerr said Tuesday. "I don't really care. Luke doesn't really care. We're just happy for the opportunity to coach these guys. We can argue all we want about who should get the wins, but really, it's the players who are doing all of the work."

The players say both coaches have been integral.

"He's been amazing," forward Draymond Green said of Walton. "He's still Luke. That's what has been special about it. He hasn't changed the way he acts. He hasn't changed anything. Obviously, he says a little more in the game coaching and calling the plays. He does all that stuff. It's just incredible how he's adjusted to that role."

Walton, the son of Hall of Famer Bill Walton, has been around the game for most of his life. He played for Hall of Famer Lute Olson in college at Arizona, learned under Jackson and two-time NBA champion Rudy Tomjanovich during his playing career and was an assistant under Kerr on the Golden State team that won 67 games and a title last season.

But Walton credits much of his learning to that time when he was injured with the Lakers in the 2009-10 season.

"It was an unbelievable gesture to start with," Walton said. "He said that I was depressed and down and out. I had a bad back and didn't know when I would be able to play again. There was nothing that I could do except sit in the trainer's room and get treatment all day. Phil going through a similar experience I think it helped him through that time and it definitely helped me through that time."

Walton said his time in the trainer's room with Jackson, assistants Frank Hamblen and Brian Shaw and the rest of the staff helped draw him into coaching.

"I saw right there that you still get that sense of camaraderie that you have as a player and you are out there and trying to come up with stuff to help your team win," he said. "It had all those elements that make playing basketball so much fun. It had all of those in the coaching."

Walton spent time as an assistant in college at Memphis during the NBA lockout in 2011 and then was hired as a player development coach by the Los Angeles D-Fenders of the NBA Development League after retiring in 2013.

Walton joined Kerr's staff at Golden State last year as an assistant and was promoted to the lead job when Alvin Gentry left for New Orleans after the championship season.

Now he's getting a chance to run a team with Kerr out and is showing the league he could be ready for his own head coaching job soon.

"You see it all the time with an assistant that he's cool and then when he's a head coach he's crazy," Green said. "You see that all the time. It hasn't been like that at all. That says a lot about him as a person. He's cool."

Cavaliers coach David Blatt was asked if Walton deserved to win the award.

"It's an interesting question. But for what it's worth I think Luke has done a fabulous job, not only in terms of what they've done with their winning streak, but to step in and replace Steve (Kerr) for this significant amount of time when Steve himself did such a fabulous job last year and was a championship coach, that's not an easy thing to do," said Blatt, who was named Eastern Conference Coach of the Month. "That's no small pressure to walk into that situation and have to maintain the level and standard of what was being done. You kind of open Pandora's box here when you start saying that an interim should or should not be credited record-wise going down the road with wins. What if it's a game, what if a guy gets thrown out for a game and somebody steps in and does that? There's a whole number of different angles. I think the important thing is everyone recognize what a great job Luke Walton has done and his team has done. Obviously he was just awarded Coach of the Month in his name. If the powers that be see fit down the line to change that rule then I wouldn't be opposed to it. But I do understand the difficulty behind making a specific change right now."

Information from ESPN's Ethan Sherwood Strauss, Dave McMenamin and The Associated Press was used in this report.