Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports reported the news early Wednesday morning, noting Lakers owner Jeanie Buss granted Johnson permission to do so in part because Walton wouldn't "bulk up" his coaching staff.
However, Johnson instead announced his decision to resign during a press conference before he told Buss:
Haynes reported Johnson didn't believe in Walton's ability to make adjustments during games or develop young players. Breakout years from D'Angelo Russell and Julius Randle after they left Walton's tutelage stood out to the Hall of Famer in particular.
Johnson also eyed replacements for Walton during the season even though Buss was initially reluctant, according to Haynes. Part of her hesitation came from the potential perception that LeBron James and his agent, Rich Paul, were driving the decisions since former Cleveland Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue and Mark Jackson, a Paul client, were among the potential targets.
As for Walton's relationship with Johnson, ESPN's Ramona Shelburne reported earlier Tuesday the two hadn't spoken for weeks. Following Los Angeles' 104-101 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday, Walton told reporters he "found out the same time you guys did" about Johnson's decision to resign.
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported the entire coaching staff believed it would be fired for months, although he suggested Johnson's departure could change things for Walton:
Adrian Wojnarowski @wojespn
Luke Walton has two years left on his contract, but only next season is guaranteed, per source. Lakers hold option on 2020-21 season. Johnson planned to fire him, but stumbled into his own resignation on the way. Somehow, Walton survived Magic Johnson. He didn't see that coming.
Still, Haynes' report indicates Buss is fine with moving on from Walton, which could spell trouble for the coach after he failed to make the playoffs in any of his first three seasons at the helm.