Sacramento Kings coach Luke Walton said he is focusing on his new team and isn’t distracted by the civil suit he is facing.
FILE PHOTO: Mar 31, 2019; New Orleans, LA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers head coach Luke Walton reacts during the second half against the New Orleans Pelicans at the Smoothie King Center. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Walton spoke publicly on Friday for the first time since former Los Angeles-area sportscaster Kelli Tennant came forward with sexual assault allegations against him in April.
“Yeah, I mean, look it’s the same I’ve been saying,” Walton said during Friday’s media day. “I’m here to do my job and focus on our Kings and get us where we need to get and the rest of it will take care of itself.”
Tennant’s suit, which is pending, claims Walton assaulted her in a hotel room in Santa Monica, Calif., in 2014.
Walton, who was hired by the Kings about a week before the charges became public, previously denied the accusations through his attorney but hadn’t faced questions.
The NBA conducted an independent investigation and found insufficient evidence when it came to Tennant’s allegations. Tennant declined to participate in the four-month-long investigation.
Walton, 39, said his focus is on basketball whenever he is around the players.
“We’re together as a group and what we have to focus on is what we have in front of us and what we can control,” Walton said. “So this is my job; it’s my job to be the best for my players and be there for my players. And that’s what I plan to do.”
The 2014 incident allegedly occurred after Walton wrote the foreword for Tennant’s book. He was an assistant coach with the Golden State Warriors at the time and Tennant stopped by the hotel to drop off a copy of the book. She said Walton wanted to have the conversation in his hotel room.
According to Tennant, things got out of hand quickly after she entered the hotel room.
“Out of nowhere, he got on top of me and pinned me down to the bed and held my arms down with all of his weight while he kissed my neck and my face and my chest,” Tennant said during a news conference in April.
According to Tennant, she asked Walton to stop and he laughed at her. Tennant said she thought she was about to get raped but she eventually broke free and left the room.
Tennant, 31, said she was afraid to come forward earlier, partly because of Walton’s status as coach of the Los Angeles Lakers. Walton was fired by the Lakers after the 2018-19 season.
Walton was hired to replace the fired Dave Joerger in Sacramento. The Kings went 39-43 last season and missed the playoffs for the 13th consecutive time but optimism is high because of the young trio of point guard De’Aaron Fox, shooting guard Buddy Hield and power forward Marvin Bagley III.
—Field Level Media