On just another quiet day for the Los Angeles Lakers, Magic Johnson stepped down abruptly and without warning before the start of the season’s final game, Jeanie Buss missed said game as she tried to figure out the next move and, oh yeah that’s right, in that game the Lakers nearly beat their third straight playoff opponent if not for a Moe Harkless buzzer-beater.
Typical stuff, really.
Following the game, as NBA fans everywhere were reeling from not only Johnson’s departure, but also Dirk Nowitzki and Dwyane Wade’s final home games, Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports dropped his additions to the story that will surely drive as much interest as the playoffs themselves:
“Lakers owner Jeanie Buss recently gave Magic Johnson permission to fire coach Luke Walton at the conclusion of this season after being informed of Walton’s unwillingness to ‘bulk up’ his coaching staff, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
“Johnson, who held an impromptu press conference outside of the Lakers’ locker room Tuesday to announce his resignation as president before the team’s final game of the season against the Portland Trail Blazers, had been displeased with Walton’s ability to effectively make in-game adjustments and he felt the coaching staff lacked the experience and expertise to foster player development, sources said.”
According to Tania Ganguli of the L.A. Times, Johnson’s departure does not necessarily ensure that Walton will stick around:
A person familiar with Buss’ thinking said Johnson’s decision did not guarantee Walton’s job was safe.
Part of the reason for that might be that this isn’t even the first time we’ve heard about Walton being stubborn about his staff with the Lakers. If you recall, management at the time was annoyed that Walton hadn’t hired a more seasoned head coach to help him learn on the job.
Now, maybe it’s possible at the time of Haynes’ reporting that Walton was so fed up with the situation he was prepared to go out with middle fingers up no matter how sensible the Lakers’ requests might be. It’s not particularly professional, obviously, but compared to stepping down without previously informing Jeanie Buss so that you can return to tweeting, this is pretty standard stuff around these parts.
If that isn’t the case, and Walton remains this ornery about the very idea of making very logical additions to a relatively pitiful coaching staff, then he should absolutely be let go. It’s that type of cronyism that helped get the Lakers to the predicament they currently find themselves in. If they really want to rebound fully from this debacle, they’ll have to ditch any and all remnants of that approach completely.
Haynes also went on to list a few names the Lakers might have been interested in — including “Tyronn Lue, Sixers assistant Monty Williams and former Warriors coach Mark Jackson... with Lue and Williams being the primary targets” — but seeing as this could be not only a completely different front office but an entirely upgraded organization, going too deeply into names at this point is a fool’s errand.
We’ll see how everything plays out, but one thing Walton is absolutely going to have to answer for will be the coaching staff he pieced together and was (apparently) willing to get fired for. Whether he does that as head coach of the Lakers is another thing altogether, and we’ll know a lot more in the coming days.