Los Angeles — New Sacramento Kings coach Luke Walton has been accused of sexual assault in a lawsuit by a former sports reporter.
“I thought he was going to rape me,” Kelli Tennant said at a news conference Tuesday, one day after TMZ reported that she was suing Walton.
Tennant alleges that Walton attacked her when he was an assistant coach for the Golden State Warriors, which was from 2014 to 2016.
Tennant said Walton, whom she considered to be a longtime friend and mentor, had written the forward to a 2014 book she had written. She went to give him a copy while he stayed at a hotel in Santa Monica during a Warriors road trip to Los Angeles.
Tennant said Walton met her in the lobby and invited her back to his room. After discussing the book, Tennant said Walton suddenly grabbed her.
“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, adding that when she asked him to get off, “he laughed at me.”
Tennant said Walton relented and she started to leave the room when he grabbed her again and kissed her ears and neck. She said he finally stopped, laughed and said “good to see you” before she left the room.
Tennant said she confided with people at the time but never filed charges.
“I was scared,” she said. “I felt coming forward would jeopardize every aspect of my life.”
Tennant said she was afraid of Walton and it took her time “to be able to muster up the courage” to go public.
“When someone assaults you and you think you’re going to be raped, coming forward is a scary thing. I have spent years now trying to deal with this,” she said.
Her attorney, Garo Mardirossian, said because years had passed, he believed it would be difficult to file the report now with police and put together a criminal case.
“Police departments are not very likely to get involved in a case this old at this time,” Mardirossian said.
Tennant filed the suit in Los Angeles County Superior Court.
Walton’s attorney, Mark Baute, called the allegations “baseless.”
“The accuser is an opportunist, not a victim, and her claim is not credible,” Baute said in a statement. “We intend to prove this in a courtroom.”
Tennant said Walton continued to harass her after he became coach of the Lakers and she was working as a broadcaster in Los Angeles for Spectrum SportsNet and SportsNet LA. She now does a wellness podcast.
Mardirossian accused the National Basketball Association of having a sexist culture.
“Aided by their fame, money and power, and motivated by a culture that tolerates misogynistic gender-bias, too many men in professional basketball inappropriately abuse women,” he said in a statement issued before the news conference.
Walton was dismissed by the Lakers this month and hired by the Kings. The Kings say they are aware of the report and gathering information. The team had no other comment.
The Lakers said the allegation was never reported to the team before or during Walton’s employment.
“If it had been, we would have immediately commenced an investigation and notified the NBA,” the Lakers said, declining further comment.
Suns fire Kokoskov
One season was not enough for Igor Kokoskov to convince the Suns that he was the man to lead the franchise into the future.
The Suns fired Kokoskov, ending the tenure of the NBA’s first European-born coach after one disappointing season.
“After extensive evaluation, I determined it is best to move in a different direction with our head coaching position,” Suns GM James Jones said in a statement. “I want to thank Igor for his work this past season and wish him the best with his future endeavors.”
Kokoskov arrived in the desert with hopes of rebuilding a franchise coming off its second-worst record at 21-61. He was hired to replace Jay Triano, named interim coach after Earl Watson was fired last season.
The Suns entered the 2018-19 season with one of the NBA’s most dynamic scorers in Devin Booker and added the No. 1 overall pick of the 2018 draft, big man Deandre Ayton.
Instead of a revitalizing season, the Suns continued to mire in mediocrity, missing the playoffs for the ninth straight season.
Phoenix had a franchise-worst 17-game losing streak in 2018-19 and became the first team in the shot-clock era (1954-55) to be held under 10 points in the first quarter of consecutive games.
The Suns finished 19-63 in Kokoskov’s only season in the desert, worst in the Western Conference.