Luke Walton brings passion, 'same soul' as new coach of Vlade Divac's Kings


Luke Walton brings passion, 'same soul' as new coach of Vlade Divac's Kings

SACRAMENTO -- The changing of the guard came quickly.

Less than 48 hours after letting coach Dave Joerger go, the Sacramento Kings already have Luke Walton signed, sealed and delivered.

Walton, of course, had parted ways with the Los Angeles Lakers just 24 hours before agreeing to take the Kings job. Without any chance to catch his breath, the 39-year-old met with the media for his introductory press conference Monday afternoon at Golden 1 Center.

By every standard, that is an extremely quick turnaround. But when you find your guy, you find your guy. And Kings general manager Vlade Divac found his guy.

“Knowing Luke for a long time, it’s kind of the same soul about basketball,” Divac said. “We understand each other very well, and I’m excited that we’re going to build this team together and get to the next level.”

Divac and Walton originally crossed paths as teammates with the Lakers during the 2004-05 season. Divac was finishing his Hall of Fame career, and Walton was just entering his second season in the NBA.

Their previous acquaintance helped speed the transition from one franchise to the next. Rarely do you see a coach leave a job one day and jump into another the next day.

Walton is excited about his new career path. But he also knows that the business of coaching hoops is brutal and your livelihood is often at the whims of others.

“It’s why it’s important to be very passionate about this job because it’s a lot that comes with it,” Walton told NBA Sports California. “But in my opinion, it’s the best job in the world, working in the NBA. I’m thrilled to have another opportunity to do that.”

Walton’s path to the NBA is unique. He spent his childhood moving from one city to the next as the son of Hall of Famer Bill Walton. One of Luke's brothers was born in Portland, where the elder Walton played for the Trail Blazers.

Luke was born in San Diego after his father signed as a free agent with the Clippers in 1979. The family spent time in Boston as well, giving the Kings’ new coach a good taste of the NBA life at a young age.

After a successful college career playing at Arizona under legendary coach Lute Olson, Walton was selected with the second pick of the second round in the 2003 NBA Draft. He fought his way into the league, spending 10 years with the Lakers and Cavs as a role player, playing for another coaching legend in Phil Jackson.

Despite his NBA pedigree, Walton’s path wasn’t easy. He finished his career averaging 4.7 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.3 assists over 564 career regular-season games.

“I believe that the harder you work, the more success you have,” Walton said. “I can understand the struggles of players and what you have to go through. I think that helps allow me to be a patient coach because as a player, I had to be patient with my skills developing.”

Walton further developed his coaching style over two seasons under Steve Kerr as an assistant for the Warriors. In his second season with the team, he stepped in for 43 games as an interim head coach while Kerr struggled with back issues, posting an incredible 39-4 record over the stretch.

That experience helped Walton land the Lakers' head-coaching job, where he posted 98-148 record over the last three seasons.

With an extremely young roster in Sacramento, the Kings will rely on their new coach to help further the culture that has greatly improved over the last few seasons.

“No. 1, you’ve got to let them know that you care, that you’re willing to work for them,” Walton said. “To me, I look at coaching as a job of service. We are here to make things better.”

Known as a great communicator, Walton inherits a solid group of players that took major strides under Joerger this season both on and off the floor. The foundation is in place, and there is hope the team is on the cusp of becoming a playoff-caliber squad.

Both Divac and Walton punted when asked about predictions regarding records or playoffs for next season, but both expect improvement over the 39-43 record that the Kings posted this season.

[RELATED: Watch the full Luke Walton press conference]

Walton will bounce back and forth between his home in Southern California and Sacramento over the coming weeks, but the job already has started. De'Aaron Fox, Harrison Barnes, Harry Giles, Nemanja Bjelica and Marvin Bagley were all at the practice facility to greet their new coach, and he intends to build out his staff over the coming weeks.

Kings GM Vlade Divac reportedly didn't know of Luke Walton assault accusations


Kings GM Vlade Divac reportedly didn't know of Luke Walton assault accusations

The Sacramento Kings apparently were as surprised as anyone by Monday's reports that coach Luke Walton has been accused of sexual assault. And the team won't make any quick decisions because of it.

The Athletic's Sam Amick cited a source in reporting that Kings general manager Vlade Divac, who hired Walton last week on a four-year contract, didn't know about the accusations before they became public. Amick also reported that "it was too early in this fact-finding process to explore the possibility of terminating Walton’s contract." So, Walton will stay in Sacramento while the facts come out.

The Kings issued this statement after the news broke: "We are aware of the report and are gathering additional information. We have no further comment at this time."

Sports broadcaster Kelli Tennant, formerly of Spectrum SportsNet, filed a lawsuit Monday in Los Angeles County Superior Court, accusing Walton of sexually assaulting her in his Santa Monica hotel room when he was an assistant coach for the Warriors. Tennant also cited further incidents, which the suit called a “pattern of mistreatment,” including when Walton was the Los Angeles Lakers' coach, starting in 2016.

Walton has retained attorney Mark Baute, who represented Minnesota Timberwolves star Derrick Rose in a rape lawsuit in which he was cleared, to defend him in the case.

Walton and the Lakers parted ways on April 12, but the team reportedly was open to keeping the coach. Walton was offered the chance to stay in LA after president Magic Johnson abruptly resigned on April 9, but he was ready to leave for various reasons, Amick reported. Just days later, he had a new job in Sacramento.

Kings coach Luke Walton reportedly sued over alleged sexual assault


Kings coach Luke Walton reportedly sued over alleged sexual assault

Sacramento Kings coach Luke Walton is being accused of sexual assault in a lawsuit filed by sports broadcaster Kelli Tennant, according to court documents first obtained Monday by TMZ and confirmed by the Los Angeles Times.

TMZ, which originally reported that the incident occurred in May 2017, later corrected the timing to "sometime before Walton became head coach of the Lakers." The Times' Tania Ganguli reported the alleged assault happened when Walton was a Warriors assistant coach, a position he held from 2014 to 2016 before leaving for LA.

Walton's lawyer denied the allegations against his client in a statement released late Monday night.

"Luke Walton retained me to defend him against these baseless allegations," said Mark Baute, whom the Times noted also represented Minnesota Timberwolves star Derrick Rose in a lawsuit in which he was accused of raping a woman. "The accuser is an opportunist, not a victim, and her claim is not credible. We intend to prove this in a courtroom."

KCRA-TV's Michelle Dapper tweeted four pages from the lawsuit filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court, which outlined Tennant's relationship with Walton and detailed the alleged sexual assault, although it didn't provide the exact date of the incident.

According to the suit, Tennant knew Walton and his wife through the competitive volleyball circuit, as both women played in college. Tennant also worked with Walton when he was a Lakers analyst on Spectrum SportsNet and later covered him when he started coaching. Tennant, according to the suit, received "mentorship and advice" from Walton, whom she viewed as "a trusted colleague, mentor and even friend."

Tennant asked Walton to write the foreword to her book, "The Transition: Every Athlete's Guide to Life After Sports," which he did. The book was published July 8, 2014, just before Walton's first season as a Warriors assistant coach, and she later wanted to give him a copy when he was in Los Angeles for a Warriors-Lakers game.

Tennant met Walton at his Santa Monica hotel, where he told her to park her car so they could "catch up." Tennant did, but she was surprised, the suit says, when Walton went to the elevators to the rooms instead of the lobby, and told her: "It's fine. Come on up. It's me." 

Once in Walton's hotel room, Tennant and Walton talked about the book, his job with the Warriors and their families (Tennant knew Walton was married and had children). Then, the suit alleges, Walton "suddenly and out-of-nowhere" assaulted Tennant, pinning her to the bed, groping her and forcibly kissing her.

Tennant told Walton to stop, but he "laughed at her pleas," the suit alleges. Walton eventually let go, and after being restrained again, Tennant left the room once he finally released his grasp.

Tennant did not report the incident, though "she confided in certain people," the suit says. She also still had to interact with Walton because of her job, and he "would impose him" on Tennant with "with a big hug or kiss," instead of a handshake, according to the document.

Ganguli and ESPN's Ramona Shelburne confirmed via sources that Tennant's allegations never were reported to the Lakers. The team later said in a statement that the incident occurred before Walton was an employee and it indeed wasn't reported to them.

Tennant worked for Spectrum SportsNet in Los Angeles for five years, and covering the Lakers was among her many duties. An August 2018 profile of Tennant in The Press-Enterprise noted she had left Spectrum after the Dodgers' 2017 season ended and "shut down her social media accounts for a few months, and regrouped even as viewers wonder[ed] where she went."

The Times cites a second incident, months before Tennant's departure from the TV network, in the suit. According to the paper, Tennant spoke at a May 24, 2017, charity event in which Walton and Lakers owner Jeanie Buss were honored, and the then-LA coach "made lewd noises and looked at her suggestively before hugging her in an unwanted way." The Times said the suit used that incident as an example of a “pattern of mistreatment.”

[RELATED: Kings reportedly didn't know about accusations against Walton]

The Kings, who hired Walton last weekissued a statement after the news broke: "We are aware of the report and are gathering additional information. We have no further comment at this time."

The Warriors also provided a statement: "We became aware of the alleged incident and story this evening and are in the process of seeking more information. We’ll have no further comment at this time."

ESPN cited sources in reporting that the NBA opened an investigation into the case, although the league hasn't officially commented.