LOS ANGELES (AP) — 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.
Luke Walton through his career
Luke Walton through his career
New Los Angeles Lakers draftee Luke Walton answers questions during a news conference at the Lakers practice facility in El Segundo, Calif., Wednesday, July 2, 2003. (AP Photo/Jerome T. Nakagawa)
Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant, center, jokes around with teammates Bryan Russell, left, and Luke Walton during the first annual Palms Casino Royale to benefit the Los Angeles Lakers Youth Foundation, Thursday night, April 8, 2004, in Santa Monica, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
** CORRECTS TO BYRON RUSSELL KNEELING NOT MALONE ** Los Angeles Lakers from left, Brian Cook, Luke Walton Rick Fox and Byron Russell, kneeling, watch as the Detroit Pistons win Game 4, 88-80, to take a 3-1 series lead in their NBA Finals in Auburn Hills, Mich., Sunday, June 13, 2004. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Los Angeles Lakers' Luke Walton poses for a television filming during Laker's Media Day in El Segundo, Calif., on Monday, Oct. 3, 2005. (AP Photo/Matt Sayles)
Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant (24) talks to teammate Luke Walton (4) during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Oakland, Calif., Friday, Dec. 14, 2007. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Los Angeles Lakers' Luke Walton, left, is defended by Minnesota Timberwolves' Marko Jaric, right, of Serbia during the first half of an NBA basketball game on Friday, Nov. 9, 2007, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Danny Moloshok)
Luke Walton smiles during a Los Angeles Lakers NBA post-championship basketball season interview at Lakers headquarters in El Segundo, Calif., Tuesday, June 16, 2009. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)
Los Angeles Lakers forward Luke Walton, left, works against Sacramento Kings guard Beno Udrih, right, of Slovenia, during the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball game in Sacramento, Calif., Tuesday, April 7, 2009. The Lakers beat the Kings 122-104. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
Los Angeles Lakers' Luke Walton during the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Nov. 19, 2010 in Minneapolis. The Lakers won 112-95. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)
Cleveland Cavaliers' Luke Walton (4) drives to the basket around Milwaukee Bucks' Ersan Ilyasova (7) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Dec. 22, 2012, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Jim Prisching)
Cleveland Cavaliers forward Luke Walton (4) reacts after he was called for a flagrant foul against the Atlanta Hawks in the second half of an NBA basketball game at Philips Arena in Atlanta, on Monday, April 1, 2013. Atlanta won 102-94. (AP Photo/David Tulis)
Golden State Warriors interim head coach Luke Walton during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game in Boston, Friday, Dec. 11, 2015. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
Los Angeles Lakers head coach Luke Walton, right, talks to Julius Randle during the first half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Dec. 5, 2016, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Los Angeles Lakers head coach Luke Walton calls a play during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Phoenix Suns, Friday, Dec. 9, 2016, in Los Angeles. The Suns won 119-115. (AP Photo/Ryan Kang)
Los Angeles Lakers head coach Luke Walton in the second half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017, in Denver. The Nuggets won 115-100. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) and head coach Luke Walton dispute a call during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Washington Wizards, Sunday, Dec. 16, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Al Drago)
Los Angeles Lakers coach Luke Walton stands near the bench in the waning minutes of the team's NBA basketball game against the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018, in Denver. The Nuggets won 117-85. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)