Kings general manager Vlade Divac moved quickly to contact coach Luke Walton after he parted ways with the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday.
League sources, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the situation, told The Sacramento Bee that Divac reached out to Walton in the first hour after his departure from the Lakers was announced. It was unclear if a meeting had been scheduled.
Walton, 39, is considered the frontrunner for the coaching vacancy in Sacramento after Dave Joerger was fired Thursday. Walton compiled a 98-148 record in three seasons with the Lakers. He won 26 games in his first season, then 35 and 37 in following seasons. The Lakers posted a franchise-worst 17-65 record just before he arrived.
“We would like to thank Luke for his dedicated service over the last three years,” Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka said in a statement. “We wish Luke and his family the best of luck moving forward.”
Walton was credited with improving a young roster in 2017-18 before the Lakers added star LeBron James and other veterans, but were not able to make their first playoff appearance since 2013.
“I want to thank Jeanie Buss and the Buss family for giving me the opportunity to coach the Lakers,” Walton said in a release. “This franchise and the city will always be special to me and my family.”
Walton previously served as an assistant coach with the Golden State Warriors during their ascension from 2014-16. He was a member of the staff that won an NBA championship in 2014-15. He led the team to a 39-4 record as interim head coach when Steve Kerr took a leave of absence to rehabilitate his back in 2015-16. Walton was a hot commodity when he left Golden State to coach the Lakers.
Kerr offered a ringing endorsement of Walton on Friday when reporters in Oakland asked him about the situation in Los Angeles.
“In this job, as a coach in the NBA, you are 100 percent dependent on your circumstances, the strength of your organization, the momentum, the unity,” Kerr said. “Everything has to be in good order, because if it’s not, as we have witnessed with the Lakers, then there’s going to be casualties and usually the coach is the first one.
“And so they’re losing one of the best human beings in the NBA. They’re losing a guy who knows the game as well as anybody I’ve ever met. They’re losing somebody who players believe in, players want to play for, but, again, he was dependent on circumstances just like all of us are, and I feel for Luke.”
Walton is a former player who spent nine of his 10 NBA seasons with the Lakers, helping the team win back-to-back championships in 2009-10. Walton and Divac were teammates in Divac’s final NBA season with the Lakers in 2004-05.
Walton is considered the leading candidate for the Kings’ coaching job, but the team is also expected to consider Philadelphia 76ers assistant Monty Williams and San Antonio Spurs assistant Ettore Messina.
Williams is widely respected around the league. After several years as an assistant with the Portland Trail Blazers, he served as head coach of the New Orleans Pelicans from 2010-15. He later worked as associate head coach of the Oklahoma City Thunder and vice president of basketball operations for the Spurs.
Messina is a EuroLeague coaching legend who has worked as an assistant under Spurs coach Gregg Popovich since 2014. Messina was named the Italian League’s Best Coach three times and has won four EuroLeague championships as a head coach. He has a career record of 279-98 in 17 seasons as a head coach in the EuroLeague.