Soon after the Lakers elected to part ways with head coach Byron Scott on Sunday night, Sam Amick of USA Today reported that president and part-owner Jeanie Buss was not involved in the decision. On her Tuesday morning appearance on "The Herd" with host Colin Cowherd, Buss confirmed as much.
"I did not anticipate that a change like that was coming," Buss told Cowherd (as transcribed by Serena Winters). Buss said she was at a memorial service when news broke and did not find out about Scott's firing until afterwards. Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said on Monday that the Lakers plan to have Scott's replacement in place by the time free agency begins in July, and which players they are going to target and sign is the next issue the front office needs to iron out.
While admitting "it is discouraging" that the Lakers have been unable to reel in the biggest fish in free agency in recent years, Buss remains hopeful the team can break that trend this summer.
Jeanie Buss (via @TheHerd): "I have no reason to think that he (Jim Buss) cannot be successful in terms of putting together a winning team."— Serena Winters (@SerenaWinters) April 26, 2016
Jeanie (on @TheHerd) reiterated Mitch & Jim "have everything they wanted in terms of flexibility... People need to give them an opportunity"— Serena Winters (@SerenaWinters) April 26, 2016
Kupchak and Lakers vice president of basketball operations Jim Buss will have to to hope his sister Jeanie is correct, because Jim has committed to step down from his post if Los Angeles does not make it to the Western Conference Finals next season. As unlikely as that outcome is, Jeanie Buss told Cowherd that her brother will still be held to the deadline he set for himself and made public.
"If you look back at the longevity of my dad's career running the Lakers, in 32 years, the Lakers only missed the playoffs twice," said Buss. "To me, it's about winning and losing basketball games. Wins and losses are pretty straight forward. That's what I've made clear to our front office, is that we are going to be judged by wins and losses."
The Lakers haven't done much of the former in recent years, setting new record lows in terms of their win-loss records the last three consecutive years while missing the playoffs to boot. It's that level of struggle that in large part led to Scott's dismissal, and head coach Mike D'Antoni before him.
While both coaches had their flaws, there does come a point where ownership has to look at who is putting the teams together when failure becomes this consistent. Kupchak and Jim Buss have dealt with their fair share of bad luck and the circus that was the Kobe Bryant farewell tour, yes, but they have now fired their one coaching hire and been in charge of assembling the rosters that have struggled so mightily.
However, one has to wonder who it serves for the Lakers president to continue to publicly discuss the deadline for her front office over and over again. Transparency is good sometimes, but a giant figurative guillotine hanging over the heads of the front office isn't going to help them recruit free agents to turn the team around. It takes away leverage in trade discussions with other teams, whose management is now being continually made aware that the Lakers front office may be dealing from the unenviable position of trying to save their own jobs.
None of that helps the Lakers. Who it does help is Jeanie Buss, who intentionally or not, continues to reinforce the perception among some fans that she is some sort of white knight riding in next summer to save the Lakers from her supposedly inept brother. If Buss truly wants the team to succeed as badly as she claims, she could do her part by not persistently reinforcing the idea that her brother and the rest of the front office are under the gun to do so while abdicating herself or responsibility for any of the team's struggles.
All quotes transcribed via the Herd or otherwise cited. You can follow this author on Twitter at @hmfaigen.