Chris Walton takes a shot at coaching

sdhoc

Former San Diego State basketball player Chris Walton is trying his hand at coaching as an assistant at Francis Parker under his former coach at SDSU and University of San Diego High.

02-15-2006
By Jake Fisher, San Diego Hall of Champions Intern

Chris Walton finished his college basketball career last year at San Diego State, but he still plays a role in San Diego basketball.

Walton, plagued by injuries his senior year, wanted to give coaching a shot and called Jim Tomey, his former coach, to help him get started.

Tomey spent seven years at SDSU as the men’s assistant coach (1999-2002) and the women’s head coach (2003-2005) before taking over the Francis Parker boys’ basketball team this year.

“I’ve been around basketball for my whole life and coaching was always something I wanted to give a shot,” Walton explained. “I’m done playing for the time being, I’ve had some injuries, and now would be the only time I could do it. It seemed like the perfect opportunity.”

Walton, the youngest of basketball Hall of Famer and San Diegan Bill Walton’s four sons, graduated from SDSU in 2005. Walton first contacted Tomey about a possible coaching opportunity at Parker in mid-September. Although the Parker bench was already filled, Tomey was able to make room for a bright player like Walton.

Walton and Tomey’s reconnection on the Parker sideline was no fluke: their relationship is much more than player and coach.

“We are very close,” Tomey stated, “I have known Chris since he was a kindergartener. I have watched him grow up, been part of his high school and college career, and now hope to mentor him into the ranks of coaching.”

Walton expanded, “{Tomey} has been around my family since I can remember. He’s been a second father to us.”

Tomey coached Walton at University of San Diego High School and assisted Steve Fisher when Walton played for SDSU. At USDHS Tomey and the Dons won seven CIF championships and a state championship in 1998.

For Walton, who has been a player his whole life, coaching under Tomey has opened up new horizons.

“I think I have a better understanding of what coaches go through. If I knew then what I know now about coaching and what goes into it,” Walton said, “it might have helped me out during my playing career.”

In addition to learning more about the game, Walton is enjoying his first experience as a coach.

“So far, I love it. We have a bunch of great kids here, Parker’s a great place to be, and we have a great coaching staff. This is awesome.”

The Parker team members are just excited as Walton.

Garrett Muagututia, the senior captain of the Lancers, explained, “When someone told me he was going to be one of our coaches I didn’t believe it. I always thought I would just see him and his family on T.V.”

Tomey can also tell Walton and the players have connected well.

“Chris is great with the kids, in particular with the big men. I think he has really helped Garrett [Muagututia] develop his game.”

The work Walton has put in with Muagututia, who was recruited by UCLA to play volleyball, is obvious. The 6’7’’ senior has averaged 20.4 points and 11.3 rebounds per game this season.

As a coach, Walton has noted some difficulties in the transition from playing.

“It’s different for me to be on the other side of things in the locker room and during the game. It’s hard not being the one lacing the shoes up and going out there and performing. Having to maintain control on the sideline and knowing that I all I can do is teach and not show is the biggest difference.”

Having graduated from SDSU, Walton plans to leave his opportunities open. Walton may continue to coach after this year but he still may want to pursue a career as a player.

“The window is definitely going to be open for a few more years. I’m just going to take it month-by-month and see how my physical health is.”

About his possibilities of coaching in the future, Walton responded, “If I pursue coaching my ultimate goal would be to get to that top level and have my own program. I’d definitely try to get my head job at a high level in either college or the NBA.”

Walton has also thought of careers outside of basketball. A business administration major, Walton explained his possibilities in that field.

“I’ve always kept that door open. I’m nowhere near ready to jump into a nine-to-five suit and tie job but I’ve always been kind of an entrepreneur. Having that background would definitely give me an opportunity to start my own business sometime in the future.”

For the time being, though, Walton will remain what he has been: a recognizable part of San Diego basketball.

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