During Magic Johnson’s “First Take” interview, one piece of news Johnson broke was that he only intended to be in the role of Lakers president of basketball operations for three years. As a result, he tried to groom a successor to take his place once he stepped away.
His first choice for a replacement would haven been Rob Pelinka, but obviously that didn’t work out as he had hoped. As a result, Johnson took to mentoring people within the Buss family he thought he could trust: Jeanie Buss’s younger brothers, Joey and Jesse. As Johnson told Stephen A. Smith:
“And then I had to monitor the brothers, because Joey and Jesse (Buss) wanted more involvement and wanted more power, and so I said that I didn’t mind doing that because they’re good guys, but also I sat them down and said ‘listen, I’m gonna really help you guys mature and get better.’
"So I took that role as well because they felt they should have been in powerful positions, whether that’s general manager or the president.”
Joey Buss is currently President of the South Bay Lakers and Jesse is the NBA team’s assistant general manager, where he has a large role in scouting and draft prep. Both brothers have done commendable work in their roles, as the Lakers are consistently praised for their draft selections, particularly late in the first round, and South Bay has produced good depth pieces for the pro team over the past few years, including Alex Caruso and Jemerrio Jones.
Even though the Lakers are once again begging for creativity by keeping members of the Buss family in prominent roles within the organization, both Joey and Jesse Buss have at least proven that they can succeed. So long as there is a power vacuum in the front office. their track record gives them the credentials to earn more responsibility. It makes sense for Johnson to help them get better in their roles and try to groom them for promotions.
However, these good vibes between Johnson and the younger Busses stand in direct contrast to how Johnson criticized the lack of organizational hierarchy. When Johnson complained that too many people were involved in decision-making processes for the Lakers, he identified Jesse and Joey as two individuals who shouldn’t have been given that level of authority, at least not at their current position.
If Johnson was mentoring the two for more prominent roles within the franchise, then they should been a part of big decisions. Johnson can’t get credit for trying to guide the Buss brothers through their maturation while also calling them out for being in the room for important conversations.
As it stands, neither Buss has received a promotion since Johnson’s resignation, so his mentoring appears to have been for naught. But the Lakers are fortunate to have two competent individuals who have thrived in their roles while the rest of the front office recovers from the wreckage Johnson has created for them. And for those hoping Joey and Jesse can get more power in the organization, this would appear to potentially be a small sign of progress on that front, since this is at least evidence they want that type of say.