SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — The Sacramento Kings hired Luke Walton as their coach Monday, just days after the Los Angeles Lakers parted ways with him following three losing seasons.
Neither the Kings nor Walton waited long following changes that came just after the end of the regular season. Sacramento fired coach Dave Joerger on Thursday following a 39-43 finish that was the best record for the franchise in 13 years, while Walton was dismissed in Los Angeles a day later when he failed to get the Lakers into the postseason in the first year with LeBron James.
Kings general manager Vlade Divac met with Walton on Saturday and the two sides quickly came to the agreement that was formally announced Monday.
The 39-year-old Walton was 98-148 in three years with Los Angeles in his first full-time head coaching job. He was 37-45 this season and was unable to make the playoffs even once.
Walton also has experience as an assistant for Golden State, helping the Warriors win the 2015 title and then leading the team to a 39-4 record, including 24 straight wins to open the 2015-16 season, as interim coach while Steve Kerr was sidelined following complications from a pair of back surgeries.
That performance helped him get the job with the Lakers but he was unable to duplicate that success with a roster with far less talent during his first two years and then again this year, even with James on board.
Walton now takes over an up-and-coming team in Sacramento that features several talented young players acquired by Divac: guards De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield, forward Marvin Bagley III and center Willie Cauley-Stein. The Kings finished 39-43, nine games out of a playoff spot after being tied for the Western Conference’s eighth seed heading into the final game before the All-Star break.
Sacramento had its most wins since going 44-38 in 2005-06 during coach Rick Adelman’s final season. That ended a run of eight straight playoff berths and Sacramento hasn’t been back to the postseason since for the NBA’s longest active drought.
Joerger was the ninth coach since Adelman was fired in 2006 and none was able to post a winning record or earn a playoff berth. In fact, since moving to Sacramento before the 1985-86 season, the only winning seasons for the Kings came in Adelman’s eight years at the helm, highlighted by a trip to the Western Conference final in 2002.
Divac is now counting on Walton being the one who can get the team back to the level it reached under Adelman, when the Kings were a contender for several years and played an entertaining brand of basketball.