Carolina Panthers halt head coach search after death of Anton Walkes

The Carolina Panthers have halted their pursuit for a new head coach with owner David Tepper attending a vigil for Charlotte FC defender Anton Walkes.

Walkes died on Thursday after a boat accident and Tepper, who also owns the MLS side, was present to pay his respects.

The billionaire owner is on the hunt for a new head coach for the Panthers after Matt Rhule was fired mid-season and interim boss Steve Wilkes failed to guide the team to the play-offs.

Interviews have been scheduled this week for the various vacancies around the league, with Tepper and the Panthers present in New York earlier in the week following the conclusion of the regular season.

But focus has now shifted back to Charlotte FC with Tepper seen grieving with Walkes’ former teammates.

Goalkeeper Kristijan Kahlina embraced the owner, while Dustin Swinehart, one of the team’s first hires after Tepper’s takeover in 2019 and a former Charlotte Eagles player, was also present in the crowd.

“Everyone at Tepper Sports & Entertainment is devastated by the tragic passing of Anton Walkes. He was a tremendous son, father, partner and teammate whose joyous approach to life touched everyone he met,” read a statement from Tepper on the MLS club’s official website.

“Anton made those around him better people in all areas of life and represented Charlotte FC to the highest standard both on and off the pitch. He will be greatly missed by many and our thoughts and prayers are with Anton’s family during this heartbreaking time. The Club offers its full support to all those impacted during this period of mourning.”

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Flowers and tributes from Charlotte FC fans built up at Bank of America Stadium on Thursday evening.

The Englishman, who also played for Atlanta United, Porstmouth and Tottenham, was in Miami to attend Charlotte FC’s training camp.

In a separate statement made by Major League Soccer, the league expressed their pain at the ‘tragic’ news.

Anton Walkes died on Thursday after a boat accident (AP)
Anton Walkes died on Thursday after a boat accident (AP)

It read: “There are no words to describe the sorrow of everyone in Major League Soccer today after learning of the tragic passing of Anton Walkes of Charlotte FC.

“Anton was a talented and dedicated player who was loved by his teammates and fans. We extend our deepest condolences to his partner, family, friends and the entire Charlotte FC family.

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“MLS is coordinating with Charlotte FC to provide players and family members with the resources and support they may need during this tragic time.”