Luke Walton should no longer be the head coach of the Sacramento Kings after allegations of sexual assault surfaced in recent days. The Kings shouldn’t part with Walton as a matter of passing judgment on these allegations. That’s for the courts and the legal process to decide, although the Kings and the league are reportedly investigating. But this is already an ugly, difficult situation and it’s only going to get worse.
There’s a real victim in this case, and it certainly isn’t Kings fans. But if the Kings decide to keep Walton through this process, they’re choosing to subject the franchise to months of discussion, speculation, and judgement on a very difficult and uncomfortable subject.
Walton has hired a lawyer, Mark Baute. Baute is the same lawyer who defended Derrick Rose against rape accusations. Baute prides himself on “breaking” witnesses as aggressively as he can. The methods Baute used were widely criticized, and even if you believe he handled the case correctly it was an extremely ugly ordeal resulting in months of gross headlines. Walton’s attorney appears ready to approach this case with the same aggression he handled Rose’s trial.
Luke Walton’s attorney Mark Baute’s statement regarding Kelli Tennant’s lawsuit:— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) April 23, 2019
“Luke Walton retained me to defend him against these baseless allegations. The accuser is an opportunist, not a victim, and her claim is not credible. We intend to prove this in a courtroom.”
If Walton is cleared of any wrongdoing, he’ll find employment again. If not, he’ll face the legal and societal consequences for his actions. Walton made millions as a player and millions more as a coach. His life will not be ruined if he’s not serving as coach of the Kings. Innocent until proven guilty is the standard for sending someone to jail. The Kings are under no such standard when deciding who should be the face of a billion-dollar enterprise.
If the Kings move swiftly, there are still many candidates available to fill the team’s coaching vacancy. The Kings will still be considered one of the top opportunities for coaching candidates. They could still pursue Monty Williams, Ettore Messina, or any number of other coaches.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear the Kings are moving in that direction. According to The Athletic’s Sam Amick the Kings are holding steady for the moment, even continuing to interview candidates for Walton’s staff yesterday.
The Kings and Walton were clearly moving forward with their working relationship on Tuesday. According to sources, Walton and Kings general manager Vlade Divac met with former Phoenix Suns and New York Knicks head coach Jeff Hornacek in Sacramento about the possibility of him being the team’s lead assistant coach. There was one other known interview for a lower level coaching position that took place on Tuesday as well, with Divac and Walton also taking part.
The makeup of the Kings staff is overshadowed by the much more serious situation at hand. If the Kings fail to act decisively, Walton’s situation is going to hang over everything like a dark cloud. Even if he wins at trial, questions will remain.
The situation will only get worse. The Kings need to move on.