LOS ANGELES — A tumultuous week continued for the Los Angeles Lakers as the team announced that it has mutually parted ways with head coach Luke Walton on Friday.
The move comes just three days after Magic Johnson left the franchise reeling by shockingly deciding to step down as president of basketball operations on Tuesday night. Walton finished his third season as head coach with a frustrating and disappointing 37-45 record in a season that began with massive expectations after LeBron James‘ arrival.
Former Cleveland Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue and Philadelphia 76ers assistant coach Monty Williams are the central candidates in the Lakers’ search to replace Walton, league sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka will run the search, a source told ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne.
Lue, who played for the Lakers from 1998-2001, spent four years with James in Cleveland, first as a Cavaliers assistant before taking over as head coach and leading the team to the 2016 title.
Walton leaves the Lakers with two years remaining on his five-year deal.
“We would like to thank Luke for his dedicated service over the last three years,” Pelinka said in a team statement. “We wish Luke and his family the best of luck moving forward.”
Walton, who went 98-148 in his three seasons as head coach, thanked the franchise and controlling owner Jeanie Buss, who was a staunch supporter of Walton’s.
“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.”
The Lakers had cursory discussions with Walton’s representatives on Wednesday in which they discussed whether there was a way forward, multiple sources told ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne. The conversations didn’t go very far, however, as it was obvious to both sides that the Lakers had planned to fire Walton before Johnson abruptly stepped down on Tuesday night.
When James and his agent Rich Paul met with John