As the Lakers dove into their coaching search, former Lakers coach Luke Walton finalized his next step.
Less than 24 hours after Walton and the Lakers parted ways, he finalized a deal to become the head coach of the Sacramento Kings, according to people familiar with the situation.
The Lakers, meanwhile, received permission to interview Monty Williams, a Philadelphia 76ers assistant who was the head coach in New Orleans from 2010 to 2015. They are expected to meet with former Cleveland Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue as well. Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka has contacted Lue’s agent and they plan to meet this week, according to a person familiar with their discussions.
Lue was the head coach for LeBron James’ only championship season in Cleveland and represents an intersection between the Lakers’ and James’ past. Lue spent his first three NBA seasons with the Lakers and was a member of two championship teams.
Lue’s coaching career began as an assistant to Doc Rivers with the Boston Celtics. He took over as the Cavaliers’ head coach in January 2016 and, in the first of three straight trips to the NBA Finals, presided over a historic comeback from a 3-1 deficit. Lue went 128-83 in Cleveland before being fired Oct. 28 after an 0-6 start to the season.
Williams’ only head coaching stint ended after a first-round loss to the Golden State Warriors in the 2015 playoffs. He went 173-221, however he coached Anthony Davis, whom the Lakers covet, for the first three seasons of Davis’ career and reportedly built a strong relationship with the Pelicans star.
After being fired by the Pelicans, Williams joined Billy Donovan’s staff in Oklahoma City as an associate head coach. In February 2016, Williams’ wife was killed in a car accident. He took several months away from coaching to grieve and care for his family.
When Williams returned, it was to join the Team USA staff. He also took a front office position with the San Antonio Spurs and this season joined the Philadelphia 76ers’ staff.
His hiring would be a departure for the Lakers, whose last two head coaches, Walton and Byron Scott (2014-16), were former Lakers.
The Kings had been interested in Walton, too, when the Lakers hired him away from the Warriors. At the time, Walton was one of the hottest assistant coaches in the NBA, having coached the Warriors to a 39-4 record while Steve Kerr dealt with a back injury.
Coaching the Lakers was Walton’s dream job and there was no question, once it became clear the Lakers wanted him, that Walton would wind up back with the team that drafted him in 2003.
He took over after the worst season in franchise history, a season with only 17 wins. The Lakers won 26 games in Walton’s first season and 35 in his second. The addition of James did not have the expected impact, in part due to injuries to several players including James. The Lakers won 37 games this season and missed the playoffs for an unprecedented sixth consecutive year.
Sacramento finished ninth in the West, and its 39-43 record was the franchise’s best since 2005-06, when they went 44-38. That was also the last time the Kings made the playoffs.
They fired Coach Dave Joerger on Thursday. Once Walton and the Lakers’ parted ways, a giddy Vlade Divac called him within hours. The Kings are expected to announce the move soon.
Divac is the Kings’ president of basketball operations and general manager. He and Walton were Lakers teammates during the 2004-05 season, Divac’s last in the NBA. Walton’s contract with the Kings reportedly aligns with Divac’s contract, which goes through the 2022-23 season.
In Sacramento, Walton will lead a young team led by point guard De’Aaron Fox, who was selected fifth in the same draft in which the Lakers took Lonzo Ball.