In 2012, Lakers vice president of basketball operations Jim Buss and general manager Mitch Kupchak courted Phil Jackson to become the team’s new coach. That delighted Lakers owner Jeanie Buss, who was dating Jackson. Jackson left a meeting with Kupchak and Jim with the impression he had a couple days to decide whether to accept a job offer. A day later, the Lakers hired Mike D’Antoni.
Jeanie was stunned. She and her brother reportedly stopped speaking.
Nearly a year later, Jeanie — who, by then was engaged to Jackson — and Jim insisted they had put the saga behind them.
But the story doesn’t end there.
The Knicks hired Jackson as president in 2014, complicating his and Jeanie’s relationship. Not only did they live on opposite coasts, they were leading opposing teams. Rumors of Jackson joining Jeanie’s Lakers were seemingly endless.
In December, Jeanie and Jackson called off their engagement. Last month, Jeanie fired Jim and Kupchak.
Least you think those developments are unrelated…
Jeanie Buss blamed her brother for forcing her to choose between the Lakers and the man she loved.
Long distance was far more of a strain on Buss and Jackson’s relationship than either of them anticipated, particularly because, due to the NBA’s policy against conflicts of interest, the couple couldn’t discuss anything related to their teams. If they ever decided to marry, the other NBA owners would have to approve it.
Each year that went by, Buss and Jackson grew further apart. Although Buss could’ve resigned her post as Lakers president to live with and marry Jackson in New York, that was never going to happen. She was far too proud of her career for that, and she always saw the Lakers as a civic treasure for which she was responsible.
The breakup in the fall of 2016 was hard on Buss. It brought back to the surface her resentment toward Jim Buss and served as a reminder of just how much her relationship with her brother and Kupchak had been poisoned by mistrust.
There were legitimate reasons to fire Jim Buss and Kupchak — the pie-in-the-sky ideas, stubbornness, poor signings and broken lines of communication.
Mixing professional and personal dynamics only muddies the water. Considering Jim Buss remains an owner, this isn’t cleared up just yet.