Kings coach Luke Walton spoke publicly for the first time Friday since sexual assault allegations were leveled against him in April.
Walton held a news conference inside Golden 1 Center before the team’s annual media day. When asked about Kelli Tennant’s lawsuit, which is pending in Los Angeles, Walton said he is focusing on his job and his family.
“I’m navigating by focusing on the Kings and the job I have here and what I’m being paid to do and building this team to a championship-level team,” Walton said.
Walton was later asked if the ongoing civil lawsuit could become a distraction for him and his team.
“It’s the same thing I tell my players,” Walton said. “We’re together as a group and what we have to focus on is what we have in front of us and what we can control. This is my job. It’s my job to be the best for my players and be there for my players, and that’s what I plan to do.”
Sacramento hired Walton to replace former coach Dave Joerger, who was fired last spring after four seasons. Kings general manager Vlade Divac swooped in quickly to hire Walton, who left the head coaching job with the Lakers a day after Joerger was fired.
During an introductory news conference in Sacramento on April 15, Walton and Divac talked about trust, togetherness, communication and a shared vision of basketball. All outside communication ceased a week later when the organization was rocked by allegations from Tennant, a former Southern California television sports reporter who filed a civil lawsuit in Los Angeles accusing Walton of sexual assault.
Tennant alleged Walton came on to her aggressively in a Santa Monica hotel room while he was an assistant coach with the Golden State Warriors in 2014. She said he forcibly kissed and groped her, ignoring her pleas for him to stop. Tennant also alleged Walton sexually harassed her in subsequent encounters when he was coaching the Lakers and she was working in television.
The Kings and NBA officials hired outside experts to conduct an independent investigation. The team and the league issued a joint statement in August announcing that their four-month investigation found insufficient evidence to support Tennant’s allegations.
“The investigation is considered closed unless new evidence becomes available,” the Kings and the NBA said in a news release when the findings of their investigation were announced.
The lawsuit is still pending and will likely take three to four years to go to trial in Los Angeles County courts, legal experts have told The Sacramento Bee. Walton has denied the accusations through his attorney, but he had not been asked about them publicly until Friday.
When asked if he was confident he would be cleared of any wrongdoing, Walton avoided the question.
“I’m here to do my job and focus on our Kings and get us where we need to get, and the rest will take care of itself,” Walton said.
Sacramento Kings preseason schedule
Oct. 4 vs. Indiana Pacers, 6:30 a.m. (India)
Oct. 5 vs. Indiana Pacers, 6:30 a.m. (India)
Oct. 10 vs. Phoenix Suns, 7 p.m.
Oct. 14 at Utah Jazz, 6 p.m.
Oct. 16 vs. Melbourne United, 7 p.m.