What had long been speculated became a reality Friday afternoon when Luke Walton was relieved of his duties as head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers. Such a decision was expected to come earlier in the week but was seemingly delayed by Magic Johnson abruptly resigning from his role.
With Johnson no longer in the picture as president of basketball operations, there was some thought that perhaps Walton would remain head coach in some part because of support from Lakers owner Jeanie Buss.
In announcing the end of his tenure, the Lakers said severing ties was a mutual decision between the franchise and Walton. However, it has since been reported Walton was essentially fired and hoped to remain with the team.
His dismissal can be attributed to a multitude of reasons — one of which appears to have been a strained relationship with the Lakers front office. According to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin and Ohm Youngmisuk, there were stretches where Walton’s communication with his bosses was minimal but it did not prevent general manager Rob Pelinka from joining coaches in their meetings:
Beyond the early-season meeting, communication between Walton and the front office was fraught, sources told ESPN. At one point, Pelinka sat in on coaches’ meetings, involving himself at a granular level in Walton’s workload. In another example, Walton went weeks without hearing a peep from Magic Johnson. Both tactics were unusual for an NBA team.
Although much of the focus was on the relationship — or lack thereof — between Johnson and Walton, recent indications suggest Pelinka is a source of friction in the front office. However, the Lakers may not view the situation as such, as signs point to Pelinka remaining GM.
As for Walton, the Sacramento Kings reportedly requested an interview in the wake of firing Dave Joerger. Walton may also receive interest from the Phoenix Suns if they’re to make a change from head coach Igor Kokoskov.