Luke Walton accused of sexual assault by former SportsNet host Kelli Tennant

Luke Walton coached the Lakers until the two sides agreed to part ways on April 12.
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

Former Lakers coach Luke Walton has been accused of sexual assault by former Spectrum SportsNet host Kelli Tennant.

In a lawsuit filed Monday in Los Angeles County Superior Court, Tennant, a former USC volleyball player, alleges that Walton assaulted her at the Casa del Mar Hotel in Santa Monica while he was an assistant coach with the Golden State Warriors.

No date was given for the alleged assault, but the suit says it happened after the publication of a book written by Tennant, for which Walton wrote a foreword. The book was published in 2014.


Walton was a mentor to Tennant, the lawsuit says, and she had known his wife for years because both were competitive volleyball players in college. She drove to the hotel to give him a copy of the book. He invited her to his room so as not to be in the public eye, according to the suit.

The lawsuit, which was examined by the Los Angeles Times, alleges that Walton suddenly “pinned Ms. Tennant on the bed, placing his hips and legs over her body.” He then “began forcing kisses on her neck, face and chest.” The suit said she yelled for him to stop and tried to free herself as Walton groped her breasts and groin area. Eventually, the suit said, Walton relented.

“She was afraid she was about to be raped,” the suit stated.

Walton played for the Lakers from 2003 to 2012. After retiring as a player, Walton dabbled in broadcasting, and appeared on Spectrum SportsNet. He and Tennant appeared together on the network.

He then went into coaching and was on the Warriors’ staff from 2014 to 2016, when the Lakers hired him to be their head coach. Walton guided the Lakers for three seasons before he and the team mutually parted ways on April 12. He became the head coach of the Sacramento Kings days later.

Neither Walton nor Spectrum SportsNet responded to requests for comment.

“Luke Walton retained me to defend him against these baseless allegations,” said Mark Baute, Walton’s attorney, in a statement to several media outlets. “The accuser is an opportunist, not a victim, and her claim is not credible. We intend to prove this in a courtroom.”

Baute also represented Timberwolves player Derrick Rose, who was accused in a lawsuit of raping a woman.


“We are aware of the report and are gathering additional information,” the Kings said in a statement. “We have no further comment at this time.”

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The Lakers released a statement on Monday evening noting that the alleged incident occurred before they hired him.

“At no time before or during his employment here was this allegation reported to the Lakers,” the team’s statement read. “If it had been, we would have immediately commenced an investigation and notified the NBA. Since Luke Walton is now under contract to another team, we will have no further comment.”

The Warriors were also caught off guard, they said.

“We became aware of the alleged incident and story this evening and are in the process of seeking more information,” a statement from the Warriors read. “We’ll have no further comment at this time.”

Attorney Garo Mardirossian, who represents Tennant, said he would not disclose further information about her allegations until a news conference. He declined to disclose whether she reported the alleged sexual assault to police.


The lawsuit notes that although Tennant did not make the allegations public until now, she had told others about the alleged assault.

Tennant continued to work for Spectrum SportsNet, the Lakers’ regional television partner, and interacted with Walton once he became the head coach of the Lakers in the spring of 2016.

The lawsuit discusses a second incident that it says made Tennant uncomfortable. On May 24, 2017, Walton and Lakers owner Jeanie Buss were honored by a charity and Tennant was speaking at the event. The lawsuit says Walton made lewd noises and looked at her suggestively before hugging her in an unwanted way. That incident was included in the lawsuit as an example of what the suit called a “pattern of mistreatment.”

Not long after that, Tennant stopped working at Spectrum SportsNet. She has not resumed her television career.

Times staff writer Richard Winton contributed to this report.


Follow Tania Ganguli on Twitter @taniaganguli