The Los Angeles Lakers' LeBron James and now former head coach Luke Walton. Picture: Jae C Hong/AP
The Los Angeles Lakers' LeBron James and now former head coach Luke Walton. Picture: Jae C Hong/AP

Time’s up: Lakers split with coach

THE Los Angeles Lakers say they have mutually agreed to part ways with coach Luke Walton after three losing seasons.

Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka announced Walton's departure.

The former Lakers forward went 98-148 in his first permanent head coaching job.

A former Golden State assistant, he never led Los Angeles to the playoffs, even with the arrival of LeBron James last summer.

Walton leaves three days after the Lakers ended their 37-45 season with the abrupt resignation of president of basketball operations Magic Johnson.

Johnson attributed his decision in part to his desire to fire Walton, who is close to Lakers owner Jeanie Buss.

"I want to go back to having fun," Johnson said, fighting off tears.

"I want to go back to being who I was before taking onthis job. We're halfway there with LeBron coming (last summer).

"I think this summer, with that other star coming in, whoever is going to bring him in, I think this team is really going to be in position to contend for a championship with the growth of the young players."

Without using names, Johnson repeatedly mentioned Buss's affinity for Walton, who was in place before Johnson got his job in February 2017, and Johnson's desire not to cause upheaval between the owner and her chosen coach.

"(On Wednesday) I would have to affect somebody's livelihood and their life," Johnson said.

"And I thought about it and I said, 'That's not fun for me. That's not who I am.' And then I don't want to put her in the middle of us, even though she said, 'Hey, you can do what you want to do.'

"I know she has great love for him and great love for me."

Johnson and Buss had a three-hour meeting on Monday about the direction of the 16-time NBA champion Lakers, who haven't made the postseason since 2013.

Magic claimed he hadn't finalise his decision until Tuesday morning.

"Somebody is going to have to tell my boss, because I know she's going to be sick," Johnson said.

"But I knew I couldn't face her face-to-face and tell her."

Instead, Pelinka announced the move in a possible sign of his increased power with the Lakers after Johnson's departure.