Going into a potentially franchise-altering offseason, the Los Angeles Lakers will be led by team president and controlling owner Jeanie Buss, her trusted advisors Kurt and Linda Rambis, and general manager Rob Pelinka.
While there were rumors that the team had someone lined up to replace Magic Johnson in April, Pelinka confirmed the overwhelming belief that the president of basketball operations position would be absolved altogether at Frank Vogel’s introductory press conference on Tuesday. Had Buss looked outside of her circle for help, there might have been a number of qualified candidates interested in the job, including, but not limited to, Lakers legend Pat Riley.
Riley denied having interest in replacing Johnson last month, but in a more recent interview with ESPN senior writer Jackie MacMullan, Riley admitted he’s considered returning to the organization he won four championships with, but no one has reached out to him:
There were murmurs that Jeanie Buss, whose blueprint has been to surround herself with people her father knew and trusted, had reached out to Riley in an attempt to coax him back to the West Coast in some front-office capacity. Riley shot down that notion on Monday.
”I have thought [about returning to the Lakers] only from a sentimental standpoint,” Riley said. “But I was never pursued by them. Nobody officially contacted me. I have about 20 friends wishing I would come back, but nobody asked.
Riley also expressed concerned over the current power structure the Lakers have in place:
“They had Magic. When you are in the position that Earvin was in, when you turn over the organization to somebody like him, there’s only one person who can say no to you. That’s your owner. It’s the same for me here in Miami. If [Heat owner] Micky Arison says no, that’s it. Now, that doesn’t mean I don’t have power.
”But when others find a way to gain influence to do this or say that, it gets a little dicey.”
Now, is Riley the be-all, end-all of basketball executives? No. In fact, you could argue Riley has been just a slightly above average basketball executive, especially since LeBron James left Miami in 2014.
Still, Riley is more proven at overseeing a team’s basketball operations than anyone in the Lakers’ current front office, and he should have at least been considered. The same could have been said of Jerry West and David Griffin.
While it’s possible that the power structure Buss has in place ends up working out for the Lakers, there’s no concrete reason to believe it will at this point, and if it doesn’t, Buss will only look worse for not reaching to more qualified candidates.
For her sake and the team’s, let’s hope they can start the summer on the right foot.