Jeanie Buss took bold action in 2017 to wrest control of the Los Angeles Lakers from her brother Jim Buss and general manager Mitch Kupchak. She saw the franchise failing and wanted to turn things around swiftly. Since that point, she’s opted to surround herself with her friends, not the best people in basketball and the franchise has suffered as a result.
When it came time for Buss to find a new president of basketball operations, she opted to bring in Magic Johnson. Rather than hire an accomplished NBA executive, she chose a former Lakers player she knew well and trusted like family.
Both of those moves have been disasters.
This offseason has been horrific for the Lakers, and that has come directly due to Buss’ decisions. We’ve learned that long-time Buss confidants Kurt Rambis and his wife Linda have taken over senior leadership roles within the organization. And this weekend it was revealed that Buss’ former fiancee Phil Jackson was also advising her.
It’s fair to point out that Jackson and Rambis were part of the dynamic group that ran the New York Knicks into the ground from 2014 to 2018.
Rather than hiring a top-level NBA executive to replace Johnson and set things right in Lakerland, Buss is relying on her friends to basically run the team. It’s mind-boggling how far the franchise has fallen in the last few years.
Jeanie Buss isn’t her father. Jerry Buss is arguably the greatest NBA owner of all-time, and while Jeanie is widely regarded for her business acumen, she’s shown an inability to trust the right people with her team’s future.
This weekend the Lakers hired Frank Vogel as their next coach, as the Rambises and Jackson advised them. A coach who couldn’t adapt to the NBA’s new, wide-open style is now going to try and win in the Western Conference. Oh, and Pelinka and Rambis forced him to take on Jason Kidd as an assistant. The same Jason Kidd who was run out of Milwaukee last season.
Could Vogel be successful in LA? Maybe, but there’s no indication he’s a good fit. Then there’s the fact that one else was looking to hire him.
Right now, Buss has surrounded herself with Pelinka, the Rambises and Jackson. That’s a group no other NBA franchise would want anywhere near it right now. She’s clearly letting personal relationships cloud her judgement.
What the Lakers need is for Buss to forget about friendships and go out and hire the best NBA executive she can find. Then let that person run the franchise from the top down. She should either do that or sell the team, because if she’s not willing to put it in capable hands, she might as well be rid of it.