The windows down, music up, Oakland whizzing by as the late-night freeway offers open lanes to cruise on a postgame high that few could ever imagine. "Oh, man," Luke Walton recalls of a yesterday that seems like forever ago. Those were good times, better than good, those jaunts out of Oracle Arena, where Walton watched the Golden State Warriors forge history from the front row. One championship run in his first season as an assistant coach, followed by an NBA-record 73-win regular season that ended 48 minutes shy of a repeat title, plus all the blowouts and once-in-a-lifetime highlights: Klay Thompson's record 37-point quarter, Stephen Curry's moonshot 3s and back-to-back MVPs.

"It was spectacular," says Walton, who as interim head coach led the team to a record 24-0 start before handing the reins back to Steve Kerr with a 39-4 mark. And it was easy to be swept up in the spectacle, to become a fan, so once a game, he had to remind himself that he needed to find flaws, areas to improve, even if the team so often played near-perfect basketball.

Not even a year later, and clocking out couldn't be more different for Walton. The music is muted, the windows up, the high turned low. From Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles to his doorstep in Manhattan Beach, the Los Angeles Lakers' rookie head coach tries to shake anger and frustration stewing after blowout losses -- "trying to get my mind right," he calls this process -- by listening to podcasts, which the 36-year-old says he had never listened to before. But then early this season, Walton chatted up Dr. Mike Gervais, a performance psychologist whom Walton has known for years. Specifically, Walton sought new ideas, viewpoints, anything that might be useful. Gervais mentioned his podcast, "Finding Mastery," and an episode in which he interviewed Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, whom Walton admires. Walton dug that first episode, then kept going. "I love it," Walton says today. "I don't even mind getting in the car anymore. Sitting in traffic for the first time in my life doesn't bother me, if it's a good one."