Tag: Jim Buss

9th Annual G'Day USA Los Angeles Black Tie Gala - Red Carpet

In memoir, Jeanie Buss says she was “stunned” Lakers didn’t hire Phil Jackson


One more time down this well traveled road….

We all pretty much know how the Lakers hiring of Mike D’Antoni went down at this point: In short, Jim Buss wants to bring back more of a “ShowTime” feel and wanted to hire D’Antoni, they went through the motions with Phil Jackson thinking he wouldn’t want the job (he had told Mitch Kupchak over the summer he was done coaching), but when Jackson expressed real interest the PR game got away from the Lakers’ brass. Lakers’ fans wanted Jackson, they got D’Antoni who, you have to admit even if you think he’s a good coach (and I do), was a terrible fit for that roster.

Now Lakers co-owner Jeanie Buss has updated her memoir “Laker Girl” and included this incident in it (remember she runs the business side of the Lakers with no input on the basketball side, as her father set it up in his trust). The Los Angeles Times published an excerpt on Sunday, starting with the famed late-night call on a Sunday night (after a Saturday meeting) where Kupchak told Jackson they were hiring D’Antoni.

When he hung up, I asked him what that was about, and he said, “Mitch called to tell me they’ve hired D’Antoni. He said that they feel given the personnel they have that D’Antoni is a better fit. He said they know they are going to take a bit of a PR hit, but he thinks it will blow over in a month.”

“He said it will blow over in a month?” I repeated in disbelief….

The sequence of events — Phil almost coming back and then being told someone else was better for the job — practically destroyed me. It almost took away my passion for this job and this game. It felt like I had been stabbed in the back. It was a betrayal. I was devastated.

I felt that I got played. Why did they have to do that? Why did Jim pull Phil back into the mix if he wasn’t sincere about it? .

In the excerpt (and you should read the whole thing, Lakers fans) Jeanie pushes back on the idea that Jackson wanted part ownership of the team or had asked for a ridiculous salary. What we all need to remember during these types of negotiations is everybody spins the story. Everybody. If you want Phil Jackson to look over the top, you say he was asking for the moon.

Not that Lakers fans really ever bought it. The bottom line is they trust Jackson in a way they do not Jim Buss right now, because they know how involved Jackson was in getting them rings.

As I’ve written before, the D’Antoni hiring and Dwight Howard leaving (those two things are certainly linked) are not what will define the Jim Buss legacy — what he does the next five years will (or at least be the foundation of it).

He wants what his father had not long after he purchased the team in 1979 — to both win and be entertaining doing it. Can that be replicated? Jeanie isn’t sold.

The story going around is that my dad pushed for D’Antoni because he wanted to go back to playing Showtime basketball. But there was only one Showtime, never to be replicated. My dad knew that.

Kobe Bryant comes to defense of Jim Buss

New Los Angeles Lakers head coach D'Antoni walks on crutches as he passes by Bryant during practice in El Segundo, California

Magic Johnson shredded Jim Buss — son of Jerry Buss and the guy running the Los Angeles Lakers now — on national television. And he spoke for a lot of Lakers fans when he did it.

Magic said he trusted Jerry, not Jim. He said Mike Brown was a mistake hire from the start and to replace him with Mike D’Antoni when Phil Jackson wanted the job was another mistake. And Lakers fans everywhere were nodding along.

But Kobe Bryant came to the younger Buss’ defense. From the Los Angeles Times.

“[Johnson’s] opinion is valued greater than most others because of what he’s done here with this franchise. I can only speak from my perspective in my dealings with Jim. He’s been phenomenal,” Bryant said. “He’s seemingly made all the right choices. Going back in time, I’m sure he would have called me and consulted me on the Mike Brown hiring but that is what it is. Other than that, he’s been behind some pretty good moves, some pretty good trades for this organization.”

Jim Buss clearly wants a ring to validate his spin as head guy for the Lakers. He found a way — and was willing to pay — to bring in Steve Nash and Dwight Howard while keeping Kobe and Pau Gasol. When he realized (later than he should have) that Mike Brown was not the coach to get this team a ring, he made an aggressive move to get someone he thought could.

That person was never going to be Phil Jackson. The relationship with Jackson and Buss was rocky, when Jackson left Buss cleared out a lot of people in the organization believed to be “Jackson’s people,” and Buss only asked Jackson about the job because they thought he’d say no and they could tell fans “hey, we tried.” When Jackson was interested they were caught in a spot they didn’t predict.

That is the one big difference so far from the Jerry to Jim Buss transition — Jerry was playing chess. He was three moves ahead in his mind and had thought out the possible outcomes of moves. Then he would act, and take risks, but they were calculated. This didn’t feel like that at all. Jim Buss has felt reactionary. But with enough money to cover his mistakes.

Phil Jackson says he had handshake deal that he could decide on Lakers job Monday

Kobe Bryant And Phil Jackson Address The Media

Phil Jackson is telling his side of the story.

Or, at least the public side of it.

He released a statement Monday night that confirms part of what the Lakers have said — that this was a basketball decision not a move made because of salary, time off or other requests — but it also shows that Jackson was among the many caught off guard by the Lakers hiring of Mike D’Antoni. And that the Lakers didn’t handle this professionally.

Here is the statement, courtesy Dave McMenamin of ESPNLA.com.

Saturday morning, Jim Buss, called to ask if he could come and visit,” Jackson said in a prepared statement released on Monday evening.

“I did not solicit or ask for the opportunity, but I welcomed both he and Mitch Kupchak into my home to discuss the possibility of my return to the Lakers as the head coach. We talked for over an hour and a half. No contractual terms were discussed and we concluded with a hand shake and an understanding that I would have until Monday (today) to come back to them with my decision.

“I did convey to them that I did have the confidence that I could do the job. I was awakened at midnight on Sunday by a phone call from Mitch Kupchak. He told me that the Lakers had signed Mike D’Antoni to a 3-year agreement and that they felt he was the best coach for the team.

“The decision is of course theirs to make.

“I am gratified by the groundswell of support from the Laker Fans who endorsed my return and it is the principal reason why I considered the possibility.”

Well played saying it was the fans bringing you back, Phil.

It also continues to give the feeling that this was a hastily arrived at decision for the Lakers. First, if you are going to fire your sitting coach with the season underway you do some back-channel communication to see if your main targets are interested already. You don’t fire and then be left trying to find somebody.

Second, it just feels wrong to tell Jackson he has until Monday to make a decision — his agent had taken a red eye out to Los Angeles for the Monday meeting — then turn around and make a midnight call on Sunday saying your are out. It’s not professional. Jackson’s agent agreed, saying that to Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLA.com.

I still think D’Antoni over Jackson could be the right call for the Lakers, but they have handled this entire coaching change poorly.

Lakers owner Jim Buss gives Mike Brown vote of confidence

Mike Brown

After what is arguably the Lakers ugliest loss of the season in Utah — although it’s really hard to pick just one, they have all been so ugly — the heat from fans and the media is back on coach Mike Brown and his Princeton offense.

But not from Lakers ownership.

Jim Buss preached patience and backed Brown, he gave a vote of confidence to his coach when speaking with Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLA.com.

“I have no problems with Mike Brown at all,” Buss said. “He just works too hard and he’s too knowledgeable for this to be happening.

“So either the system is flawed or something’s going on. Or, like the Triangle, it’s very hard to pick up and understand. I’m not a basketball mind like he is or the players are, and the players are fine with it, so I just have to be patient….

“You have to give it time to understand [what’s going on],” Buss said. “I don’t know if there’s an actual game total that would make me impatient. I know if we’re 1-15, I don’t think that would be very good. I’m sure that would be a panic button. But at this time, I’m fine with what’s going on. It’s a learning process for the players. As long as everybody is on the same page, I think we’re fine.”

When you say “the players are fine with it” do you mean Kobe Bryant? Because that is what we all pretty much are thinking. And very clearly during the game Wednesday Kobe was damn frustrated.

“Kobe [Bryant] and I have a relationship where he can just look at me and say, ‘Everything’s cool,'” Buss said. “So yesterday during practice, I gave Kobe a quick glance, and everything was cool.”

For now. Often these kinds of votes of confidence is the last thing the coach hears before the ax falls, but in this case Brown still has time. Buss is smart enough to remember when the Miami Heat started 9-8 two seasons ago and everyone was sure Pat Riley was coming down from the front office to replace Erik Spoelstra. That worked itself out and the Heat were in the finals that year. Plus, remember it was Jim Buss who went and got Mike Brown, that’s his guy. We are all slow to admit our mistakes and Jim Buss is no exception.

Besides, the Lakers are not a franchise that makes knee-jerk reaction. The Buss family does not makes moves out of panic.

But that Heat team had a longer window than these Lakers, Buss cannot be patient forever. There isn’t going to be a change after five games. But once we start to get into December, if this team is still a hot mess, if it isn’t showing signs of real improvement and being on the way to contending, change may well come.

Lakers owner says it is no accident they have 2014 cap space

Los Angeles Lakers Introduce Dwight Howard

It wasn’t LeBron James directly, that is just sort of a happy coincidence.

But it is no accident that in a couple years the Lakers are going to have a boatload of salary cap space.

Lakers owner Jim Buss — his father Jerry still owns the team but Jim is the guy running the show now — told Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register the plan was to have maximum flexibility the year Kobe Bryant’s contract ended, the summer of 2014.

“We purposely ended all contracts that year,” Buss said. “I can’t talk about Kobe (Bryant), but this is what he signed till. So basically we put everything to that, and we want to make a big splash in the free-agent market if we get to that spot. So we designed the contracts and the players and our future all around that….

“Yeah, depending on the free agents that year,” Buss said. “We would basically, money-wise, be able to sign the top free agent – maybe even two. I don’t know the numbers exactly, because we’re not privy to what the cap is and how much room we have, but it’s going to be close to two of the top free agents that year.”

Right now the only Lakers contract on the books for that season is Steve Nash at $9.7 million. You can expect Dwight Howard will be added to that list in the neighborhood of $21 million when he re-signs with the team this summer (he could technically leave but I wouldn’t bet on it). That’s a little over $30 million on the books, which even with the salary cap where it is now would leave them $28 million to chase free agents. That’s at least one max free agent.

A bunch of you just read that and said “the rich get richer” or something like that. Maybe with more curse words in there. And you’re ready to go off on your “the NBA is fixed” rant.

But what the Lakers are doing is something Portland or Memphis or Washington or any team can do — clear out cap space to chase the biggest names in the game.

It’s what the Heat did successfully under Pat Riley — they took a huge risk but it paid off. Other teams, including the Knicks and Nets, have tried similar strategies but it doesn’t always work.

It just always seems to work for the Lakers. Because if you’re a big market and willing to take risks like this, the Memphis’ of the world will almost always lose out no matter how prepared they are.