The Los Angeles Lakers have mutually parted ways with Luke Walton as head coach following the 2018-19 NBA season, the team announced.
“We would like to thank Luke for his dedicated service over the last three years,” Lakers general manger Rob Pelinka said. “We wish Luke and his family the best of luck moving forward.”
“I want to thank Jeanie Buss and the Buss family for giving me the opportunity to coach the Lakers,” Walton said. “This franchise and the city will always be special to me and my family.”
Walton was originally hired prior to the 2016-17 season as a former player and young head coach leading the young core of Jordan Clarkson, Brandon Ingram, Larry Nance Jr., Julius Randle, D’Angelo Russell, and Ivica Zubac.
While the Lakers went 26-56 in Walton’s first season, they improved by nine games the following season despite president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka trading away some of the young core to create the necessary cap space for two max-contact slots.
In 2018 free agency, LeBron James signed a four-year, $154 million deal with the Lakers. With James’ arrival to Los Angeles, the team’s expectations went from developing the young core to competing for championships.
With Johnson and Pelinka signing ‘tough-minded’ playmakers alongside James instead of shooters, the Lakers started with a 2-5 record. As a result, there was a meeting where Johnson later revealed Walton would remain the head coach ‘unless something drastic happens.’
From this early point of the season, Walton faced an uncertain future in Los Angeles. Despite all of the injuries to James and the young core, the third-year head coach was eventually blamed for the Lakers missing the playoffs for the sixth consecutive season.
While Walton had his shortcomings, head coaches are often the scapegoats in these types of situations and it was not any different for the 39-year-old.
This decision also comes after Johnson shockingly resigned prior to the team’s game against the Portland Trail Blazers.