SACRAMENTO - Vlade Divac’s search for the new head coach of the Sacramento Kings tipped-off the next day after he dismissed Dave Joerger on Thursday.
The Kings' general manager contacted former Lakers coach Luke Walton on Friday to discuss their coaching vacancy with him, according to league sources, speaking to ABC10 on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.
The Lakers and Walton mutually agreed to part ways earlier in the day, and Sacramento reached out to the 39-year-old son of Hall of Famer Bill Walton once he became available, according to sources.
Walton was a first-time head coach when he joined the Lakers, leading them to a 98-148 record in his three seasons in Los Angeles, the same franchise he spent nine of his 11 NBA seasons as a player, where he won two championships.
Divac’s interest in Walton could have to do with his desire to continue to play with an uptempo style and having the familiarity of his character as both were teammates for the 2004-05 Lakers season.
Sacramento is also reportedly to have interest in Spurs assistant coach Ettore Messina and 76ers assistant Monty Williams, according to multiple outlets.
Prior to joining the Lakers as their head coach, Walton was considered a rising coaching star. He spent two seasons as an assistant coach under Steve Kerr with the Warriors. He would assume the role of fill-in coach for Kerr during the 2015-16 season while Kerr recovered from back surgery, leading a star-studded Golden State team to a 39-4 record during that time.
The Lakers finished with a 37-45 record this season, a two win improvement over the previous year as one of the NBA’s youngest teams. Many of those young pieces remained after James brought his talents to Tinseltown, but the team also added many veteran pieces such as Rajon Rondo, JaVale McGee and Lance Stephenson for a potential playoff push.
This past season, Walton and his Lakers team found themselves in the center of the national spotlight, after signing LeBron James as a free agent last summer. But his final season with Los Angeles had as much drama surrounding the team and played out with storylines fit for Hollywood.
Blending both the talents of primarily young players with James and his mix of veterans proved difficult, especially as Los Angeles battled injuries.
James would be plagued by a groin injury throughout the season, causing him to appear in a career-low 55 games. Other starters missed significant time with injury too. Point guard Lonzo Ball played in only 47 games after suffering a sprained ankle in January, forward Brandon Ingram appeared in 52 games, as his season ended in March when he had surgery to remove a blood clot. A finger injury even caused Rondo to be sidelined for 36 contests.
Earlier this week, Magic Johnson unexpectedly stepped-down as the Lakers’ president of basketball operations in front of reporters at an impromptu press conference, opting to announce his decision in front of the cameras rather than first notify team ownership. He and Walton clashed just six games into the season, as Johnson was disappointed with the team’s sluggish start, according to the L.A. Times.
The team also fired athletic trainer Marco Nuñez on Wednesday, who was promoted to replace longtime trainer Gary Vitti, who had been with the Lakers since 1984.
Certainly, Walton isn’t to blame for all of the Lakers misfortunes over the past season, but the Kings will have to hope that the drama stays remains in L.A. should they make an offer to him for their head coaching position.
Divac, who inked an extension to keep him as the Kings general manager through the 2022-23 season, will need to have the utmost confidence that Walton can relate, communicate, build chemistry and lead a primarily young Sacramento team, consisting a core players De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Marvin Bagley III and Harry Giles.
Watch below, today's edition of "Purple Talk" Lina Washington and I discuss the firing of Dave Joerger and Luke Walton being a potential candidate.
Follow Sean Cunningham on Twitter: @SeanCunningham
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