Given all the chaos surrounding the Los Angeles Lakers following Magic Johnson’s sudden resignation, many in the fan base have been calling for Jerry West, the man widely considered one of the greatest executive minds in the history of the NBA. Quite unfortunately, it appears either team president and controlling owner Jeanie Buss cannot hear that outcry, or is ignoring it altogether.
In the wake of Magic Johnson’s resignation, West sat down for a Q&A with Sam Amick of The Athletic to talk about his role in the Clippers’ unexpected surge and, of course, all the goings on in the organization he once won championships on and off the court with:
“Well, I think for some reason, people think that I don’t like the Lakers; that is not even close to true,” West began in our chat. “My life has been the Lakers. It’s an iconic brand, but there are things that happen – things that happen where everyone is trying to look for a reason that they happened. And if someone wants to walk away – and Earvin did it – there had to be reasons. But he did it. And honestly, he looked like he was a happy camper.
“He got the pressure off of him. I have no idea what he’s going to do with his life. Well, I know what he’s going to do with his life, he’s going to pursue his other interests, which are time-consuming. But he might have a greater interest in those than he does the day-to-day stuff in basketball, the criticism that’s involved. That’s not fun to see, particularly for someone like him. I wish him the best. I really do. And I’m just hopeful that we can beat them more than they beat us.”
West highlights the grind of being an executive and how Johnson might not have seen that aspect of the commitment coming. Here’s the thing, though: These are details that could have been fleshed out during the process of hiring a candidate who was a) qualified and b) knew what they were getting into.
Instead, Buss rushed into elevating Johnson to a position he seems to have known nothing about and paired him with Rob Pelinka, who had just as much experience as an NBA executive as Johnson, you or me.
Based on Amick’s reporting, Buss is approaching filling Johnson’s now-vacant job in much of the same, rushed fashion — even despite how embarrassingly his tenure ended. Buss ignored West’s apparent interest last time around and, per Amick, is on that same track right now:
But there are other elements to the local strategy, too, things like hiring a Lakers legend in West to be a trusted voice at a time when so many expected him to return to Laker Land (sources say that a similar role with the Lakers was never offered to West back then, and there is no indication that Buss is attempting to woo him to her side this time around either – despite Shaq advocating for such a move recently on TNT).
West went on to eventually say he isn’t sure what his future holds beyond this offseason, which makes a potential pairing with him and a Lakers organization needing a consistent voice not only this summer but for years to come tricky. That said, he could theoretically bridge the gap between now and whatever front office they see fit moving forward.
Even then, though, it’s not necessarily as a simple as bringing in West. elevating his son, Ryan, and Jesse Buss, and calling it a day. There seems to be legitimate distrust not only between Jeanie and Jerry, but with the Lakers organization as a whole. Jeanie is probably reticent to hiring Jerry for the simple fact that she’d be adding someone she’s had conflict with — most memorably when West reportedly wasn’t comfortable with her relationship with Phil Jackson — and not an ally within team offices.
If this is what she considers best for the Lakers, fine, but now, more than any other time in her professional life, Buss will be held personally accountable not only if this ends in disaster like Johnson’s tenure did, but also if Pelinka doesn’t absolutely crush it in this position in the way the likes of West, Bob Myers, Sam Presti, RC Buford, Masai Ujiri, etc. would, especially given that the Lakers have shown no signs of reaching out to them.
Buss values loyalty. Pelinka stood by her side not only when Johnson finally stepped down, but also throughout Johnson’s volatile tenure — marked by lengthy absences and brash decision-making. So Buss appears set to reward Pelinka for his consistency.
But if she truly cares about loyalty, why not extend that prioritization to the fan base that has supported her and her organization throughout its ugliest era? Don’t fans deserve the best if the best is made readily available? It’s her team and thus her call, but if she gets this wrong now for the second consecutive time and with the same process, then she can’t complain when fans let out their frustrations in her direction.