How Los Angeles Lakers fans will remember Magic Johnson as an executive remains an open question, but they’ve probably purposefully forgotten how he fared as a head coach.
Johnson is unquestionably one of the greatest players and floor leaders in both Lakers and NBA history, skills that didn’t translate to getting behind the clipboard. Johnson coached 16 games for the Lakers in 1994, going 5-11. That translates to a winning percentage of .313, which ranks 247th out of the 324 men to ever ascend to the rank of NBA head coach. For context, that is worse than Byron Scott (.412).
It’s possible Johnson could have improved given just how small of a sample-size of games he coached, but it appears he has no desire to find out.
The Lakers’ new president of basketball operations spoke to reporters at the Lakers All Access event Monday, and said he has no interest in doing the job he and the organization pay Luke Walton handsomely to do:
Magic on Luke: "I would never interfere with him, his players and the coaching."— Mark Medina (@MarkG_Medina) February 28, 2017
It’s a sentiment Walton mirrored recently during a post-practice scrum when asked if he had changed how he was coaching since Johnson had joined the organization (via Shahan Ahmed of NBCLA):
"Am I coaching differently since we hired Magic?" Walton said with a tone that straddled the line between bemusement and bereavement.
"No, we have our vision and our goal of what we're trying to do," Walton explained with a slightly defensive rant in the hopes to end the line of admittedly annoying questions. "We've had great talks, but that's one of the great things (about) working with Magic. He's said multiple times, he's not going to come down here. Coaching is my job and my staff's job. Why would he, in his job, try to come down here and tell us how to coach and what he thinks what we should do?"
Walton added, "We're doing the same stuff down here. And yea, we definitely bounce ideas off each other, what he sees. Of course, I value the opinion of some that is one of the all-time greats in this game, but it's not going to change the way we coach this team."
So it doesn’t sound like Johnson is planning to step on Walton’s toes, although even if he ever did stick his nose in a bit, it’s not like Walton’s never had co-workers who were hard to deal with at times:
Luke brought up playing with Kobe before saying how easy it's been to work with Magic. Luke: "I've never been screamed at or cussed at."— Mark Medina (@MarkG_Medina) February 28, 2017
If Johnson ever does decide to scream or cuss at Walton, the latter probably just hopes the former has the decency to follow his lead and do it behind closed doors.
Harrison Faigen is co-host of the Locked on Lakers podcast (subscribe here), and you can follow him on Twitter at @hmfaigen.