NBA Hall of Famer Earvin “Magic” Johnson has been named the Los Angeles Lakers’ President of Basketball Operations in an overhaul of the struggling team’s front office. The team announced on Tuesday that general manager Mitch Kupchak has been let go and that Jim Buss will no longer serve as executive VP of basketball operations.
Buss is the son of the deceased Lakers owner Jerry Buss and brother of Lakers co-owner Jeanie Buss. The team is currently 19-39 and in 14th place (of the 15 teams) in the NBA’s Western Conference.
Johnson was hired as an adviser to the Lakers earlier this month and subsequently said he would like to “call the shots” for the team. The announcement did not specify whether Johnson will handle day-to-day operations. “It’s a dream come true to return to the Lakers as president of basketball operations working closely with Jeanie Buss and the Buss family,” Johnson said in a statement. “Since 1979, I’ve been a part of the Laker Nation and I’m passionate about this organization. I will do everything I can to build a winning culture on and off the court. We have a great coach in Luke Walton and good young players. We will work tirelessly to return our Los Angeles Lakers to NBA champions.”
Johnson played point guard for the Lakers for 13 seasons, leading the team to five NBA championships in what was widely known as the team’s “Showtime” era. He won three Most Valuable Player awards Jeanie Buss, the Lakers’ president, governor, and co-owner said that the team is actively searching for a new general manager.
In his first public comments since being hired as an advisor to Lakers governor and co-owner Jeanie Buss, Magic Johnson tread softly about the Lakers executive of whom he has been most critical through the years. His role, he said, was simply to help in any way he could.
“Jim [Buss] is calling the shots,” Johnson said during an interview with Spectrum SportsNet, the station that holds the rights to Laker broadcasts. “I want him to understand I’m just here to lend advice.”The Lakers hired Johnson on Thursday, two weeks after Johnson and Jeanie Buss were seen having dinner before watching a Lakers game together. Johnson’s duties will include “collaborating with coaches, evaluating and mentoring players, assessing future franchise needs, and helping ownership to determine the best path for growth and success,” according to a release on the team website.
Johnson, who was not available to other media outlets, described a versatile role, where he will advise team executives and employees on everything from business to basketball should they want it.He also indicated he did not want to force his way into any situation. He said he was open to helping Lakers Coach Luke Walton in working with players, but also open to being uninvolved in the players’ day-to-day development if Walton was comfortable with that. “What I want to do is try to just, little by little build the Lakers back up to where they should be,” Johnson said.
Johnson spent 13 seasons playing for the Lakers, winning five championships and three MVP awards. During that time, he grew especially close with late Lakers owner Jerry Buss, Jeanie and Jim’s father. The elder Buss sold an ownership stake in the organization to Johnson after he retired from playing. Johnson, who also has an ownership stake in the Dodgers and Sparks, sold his share of the Lakers in 2010.