Magic Johnson has only held an official front office role with the Los Angeles Lakers for a little over a year, but he has already made quite the impression on controlling owner Jeanie Buss.
Buss hired Johnson, who she has known since he was drafted No. 1 overall in the 1979 NBA Drat, in an advisory role last February. A few weeks later, Johnson was promoted to president of basketball operations after Buss made the bold move to overhaul the front office by ousting her brother, Jim Buss, along with general manager Mitch Kupchak in the middle of the regular season.
But while such a bold move could have backfired, an interview on The Official Lakers Podcast, Jeanie said Johnson’s success has only made her feel more vindicated:
“It feels exactly as it should have always been. He was somebody that was taught by my father about the business, about the basketball. They shared many hours of conversation about what they wanted to accomplish, not only with the Lakers, but in life.
“My dad was a part father to him, so now when Magic and I sit down for a meeting and we have a discussion, it’s like I’m talking the same philosophy because we were brought up by the same person. It’s very comfortable, I get to see him all the time, which is such a benefit. It’s like family, and I couldn’t be happier.”
I can’t be the only one to see the irony in Jeanie saying that Johnson is “like family” to her after she literally fired her actual, blood-related brother to promote Johnson. Jerry Buss wasn’t like “part father” to Jim Buss, he was his biological father.
Despite the obvious, Jeanie clearly feels a special bond with Johnson and the results have spoken for themselves thus far:
“He’s exceeded my expectations for what I thought the team (could do). I knew he could be successful in that role with the team, but to think that it hasn’t even been two years since he started, and how different the culture is here, how different the roster is, and the fact that we were successful in free agency really is a tribute to what Magic has put together.”
As impressive as Johnson and his partner, general manager Rob Pelinka, have been, there work is far from done. The next step for Buss, Johnson and Co. is to break the Lakers’ five-season playoff drought.
While the addition of LeBron James surely helps their chances, there are no guarantees in the stacked Western Conference. But if the new front office regime has taught the fans anything, there’s reason to be optimistic. And maybe even to raise their expectations, given Johnson’s penchant for exceeding them.
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