Johnson clearly intended to fire Lakers coach Luke Walton. Then, Johnson stunningly resigned as Lakers president.
Still, the Lakers and Walton “mutually agreed to part ways,” as team described it.
Most people figure Walton got fired, but had his departure put into kinder terms. But maybe it wasn’t that simple.
sources say Walton was given the chance to stay on as head coach in a subsequent meeting that included owner Jeanie Buss. But Walton, who was already aware that Buss had given Johnson the full authority to fire him and who had long harbored concerns about general manager Rob Pelinka’s style, was ready to head for the exits himself.
Why is this leaking now? Walton is being sued for sexual assault. The Lakers say they didn’t know about the alleged incident while employing him. Kelli Tennant claims it occurred while Walton was still a Warriors assistant coach, and it didn’t become public until after he left Los Angeles. That the Lakers invited him to return supports their claim (or opens the door for them to look far worse if it turns out they did know).
From a basketball standpoint, it’s unclear under what terms Walton could have returned. Perhaps, the Lakers would have required him to change his coaching staff and/or schemes. It might not have been as simple as Walton continuing on the job as he was doing it previously.
He found a soft landing spot with the Kings. The security of the Sacramento job might have been more appealing than continuing with the Lakers.