What you need to know about NBA, Kings investigation clearing Luke Walton
Sexual assault allegations against coach Luke Walton blindsided the Kings organization and left the team’s top officials wondering if they will have to fire Walton less than two weeks after hiring him.
A league source told The Sacramento Bee on Tuesday that Kings general manager Vlade Divac had no knowledge of the allegations against Walton when he hired him 10 days ago. It’s too early in the investigative process to tell if Walton’s four-year contract with the Kings could be terminated, the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the investigation.
A lawsuit filed by Kelli Tennant on Monday accuses Walton of sexual assault during an incident that occurred in a Santa Monica hotel room while he was an assistant coach with the Golden State Warriors from 2014-16. Tennant, a former sports reporter for Spectrum SportsNet LA, alleged in court documents that Walton pinned her down on the bed in his room, forcibly kissed her face, neck and chest, groped her breasts and groin, and rubbed his erection on her leg.
Mark Baute, an attorney representing Walton, strongly denied the accusations in a statement issued late Monday night. Baute said the allegations against Walton are “baseless.”
“The accuser is an opportunist, not a victim, and her claim is not credible,” Baute said. “We intend to prove this in a courtroom.”
The alleged incident occurred before Walton was hired to coach the Los Angeles Lakers in April 2016. Walton and the Lakers mutually agreed to part ways April 12 after three losing seasons. Divac swooped in quickly, hiring Walton 24 hours later to replace Dave Joerger, who was fired April 11.
The Kings released a brief written statement after news of the lawsuit broke Tuesday evening.
“We are aware of the report and are gathering additional information,” the Kings said in the statement. “We have no further comment at this time.”
NBA spokesman Mike Bass said the league is looking into the situation. “We are coordinating with the Kings organization and are in the process of gathering more information.”
The Lakers also issued a written statement, saying they were previously unaware of Tennant’s allegations.
“This alleged incident took place before Luke Walton was the head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers,” the team said. “At no time before or during his employment here was this allegation reported to the Lakers. If it had been, we would have immediately commenced an investigation and notified the NBA. Since Luke Walton is now under contract to another team, we will have no further comment.”
The Warriors issued a statement as well, saying: “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.”