Why did Kings fire Luke Walton? Sacramento dismisses head coach after lackluster start to season

Luke Walton’s time with the Kings has come to an end.

On Sunday, the Kings announced that they have fired Walton as the team’s head coach following a 6-11 start on the season.

“After a thorough evaluation of the season thus far, I decided to make a change to the head coach position,” said Kings general manager Monte McNair. “I want to thank Luke for his efforts and contributions to our team.”

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski was the first to break the news.

Walton took over as Sacramento’s head coach in 2019-20. The team posted a 68-93 record under him.

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Why did the Kings fire Luke Walton?

After the Kings finished 31-41 in back-to-back seasons, Sacramento general manager Monte McNair made it clear that he expected the team to earn a playoff berth in 2021-22, putting a lot of pressure on Walton early in the campaign. The Kings have not reached the postseason since 2006.

“One thing that’s really helped us is (that) we have very, very clear goal,” McNair told The Athletic’s Sam Amick in early November. “We want to get this organization back to the playoffs. We want to get back there (and) that helps (that) we have a singular focus.”

McNair was supportive of Walton to start the season, saying that he had done a “great job” with the players and coaching staff, but the confidence in Walton began to wane as the Kings dropped games against less-than-stellar opponents and landed near the bottom of the Western Conference standings. During one November stretch, Sacramento lost six out of seven games, including an embarrassing performance against Toronto at home that featured a group of fans at the Golden 1 Center chanting “Fire Luke Walton.”

Walton was unable to consistently produce wins throughout his tenure, and the front office finally ran out of patience. Now the Kings will hand a roster featuring talented players such as De’Aaron Fox, Tyrese Haliburton, Buddy Hield, Harrison Barnes and Richaun Holmes to someone else.

Who will replace Luke Walton as the Kings’ coach?

The Kings announced that Alvin Gentry has been named Sacramento’s interim head coach.

Gentry was an associate head coach for the Kings under Walton. Prior to joining the Kings, he was the head coach of the Pelicans for five seasons. 

Gentry is already under contract through 2022-23, per Wojnarowski.

Luke Walton contract

Former Kings GM Vlade Divac named Walton the team’s head coach in April 2019, reportedly signing him to a four-year deal.

“I have known Luke for many years and I am so excited to welcome him and his family to the Sacramento Kings,” Divac said at the time. “I look forward to his leadership on the court as we work to build a winning culture for many years to come.”

Walton’s contract is reportedly guaranteed through the 2021-22 and 2022-23 seasons for a combined total of $11.5 million.

Luke Walton coaching record

Season Team Record Winning %
2016-17 Lakers 26-56 .317
2017-18 Lakers 35-47 .427
2018-19 Lakers 37-45 .451
2019-20 Kings 31-41 .431
2020-21 Kings 31-41 .431
2021-22 Kings 6-11 .353
Career Lakers/Kings 166-241 .408

(Note: Walton led the Warriors to a 39-4 start during the 2015-16 season as Steve Kerr recovered from back surgery, but those wins were credited to Kerr.)

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