With speculation increasing as the season wore on, Los Angeles Lakers owner Jeanie Buss remained a staunch supporter of head coach Luke Walton, who had come under intense criticism from Magic Johnson.
The former Lakers president of basketball operations reportedly admonished Walton and questioned the direction of the team’s offense after a 2-5 start to the season. As the new-look Lakers began to develop chemistry, their record improved.
But long-term injuries to LeBron James and Rajon Rondo threw the team off course and they never recovered. While the expectation was Johnson would fire Walton at the end of the season, it was the Lakers executive who shockingly is no longer in his role.
However, even with Johnson resigning, it does not cement Buss electing to retain Walton as head coach, according to Tania Ganguli of the L.A. Times:
A person familiar with Buss’ thinking said Johnson’s decision did not guarantee Walton’s job was safe.
During his impromptu press conference to announce he was stepping down, Johnson deferred to Buss when asked if Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka and Walton should remain in their roles with he team.
While Buss had long voiced public and private support for Walton, she reportedly gave Johnson the go-ahead to part with the head coach at the end of the season. As Walton’s future takes on more twists, his fate may very well not be decided until the Lakers gain some clarity within the front office.