In the earlier, halcyon days of the offseason, back when there was a hope that the Los Angeles Lakers front office had a plan to regroup in the wake of Magic Johnson’s resignation, the “shadow executive” theory was a popular explanation for the new president of basketball operations not being named yet. Essentially, Los Angeles was targeting a high-level executive already employed by another playoff team to replace Johnson, but couldn’t reveal who it was while his team was still playing.
Suffice it to say, while it was fun for fans to speculate about a superhero swooping in to save the franchise, it turns out there was never any real chance that the Lakers would look beyond their own organizational family for help. As it turns out, the shadow executive was in front of us the whole time.
After the Lakers front office finally made its first decision since Magic’s departure, hiring head coach Frank Vogel with Jason Kidd as an assistant, Bleacher Report’s Eric Pincus reported that management has settled on a coherent structure going forward, and the acting president is sort of Kurt Rambis:
According to a person familiar with the negotiations, it wasn’t general manager Rob Pelinka but senior basketball adviser Kurt Rambis who orchestrated the Vogel hiring. He also made the move for Jason Kidd, who will serve on the bench as an assistant coach.
Multiple executives, when polled, suggested the Lakers should make sure they have their front-office hierarchy established before hiring a coach, and it appears they have, with Rambis stepping into that role.
One executive even called him the Lakers’ “shadow president.”
Rambis rejoined the Lakers as a senior basketball adviser last September after a failed stint on the New York Knicks coaching staff, including as interim head coach. Per ESPN’s Dave McMenamin, he started joining the team for road trips after the All-Star break. Much like Magic Johnson, who was rehired as a consultant for Jeanie Buss before becoming president, Rambis has steadily assumed more power throughout his most recent tenure in Los Angeles.
Rambis took part in the team’s head coaching search, interviewing Jason Kidd during phase one and holding significant power throughout. There were rumors that the Lakers tried to force Luke Walton to hire Rambis as an assistant before his firing, and then did the same thing to Tyronn Lue before those negotiations fell apart. Furthermore, Rambis and his wife Linda were reportedly part of the minority opinion in the front office that didn’t want to hire Lue, and likely played a role in the team devaluing Lue during the hiring process.
All of those actions sound like the behavior of someone with substantial personnel power. Most people believed that Rob Pelinka would fill the vacuum of authority in the Lakers front office, but it seems more and more clear that it’s actually Rambis — who has fewer qualifications than Pelinka did when he was hired — is the latest retread with Laker blood to make his presence felt in basketball operations.