To figure out what’s going on with the Lakers, one has to figure out what is going on with the ownership.
The Buss family owns 66% ownership share and each of Jerry’s 6 children has equal voting power in their deceased father’s stead. However, Jeannie has been part of the family business since she was 19 years old when she was still a business student at USC. Jeannie has taken up executive roles within the Buss sports franchise starting with the LA Strings, LA Blades, Great Western Forum then finally with the Lakers. After Jerry’s passing, Jeanie took over as the Laker’s president and represents the Lakers at the NBA board of governors.
Jeanie’s oldest brother Johnny is the president of the LA Sparks. And, Jeanie’s second oldest brother Jim was brought into the Laker organization to be groomed to take over the Lakers basketball operations. He’s worked in various capacities with the lakers but was given the title of vp of player personnel in 2005. Immediately after taking up his new position, Jim made these following statements:
“If you keep mending your team every year after you make a trade like Shaq, you’re going to be an average team. Maybe make the playoffs, first, second round. That’s not the goal. The goal is to make a big step.”
“Evaluating basketball talent is not too difficult. If you grabbed 10 fans out of a bar and asked them to rate prospects, their opinions would be pretty much identical to those of the pro scouts.”
Jeanie has grabbed many headlines on the internet during the past few days after making a couple of very high profile interviews on ESPN. I learned from these interviews that Jeanie has distinct philosophical and interpersonal differences from Jim in terms of how they like to manage the LA Lakers. The following are notes of things said by Jeanie during interviews on First Take and Numbers Never Lie:
-Front office are saying in October that we don’t have the players. Phil always had a path and this includes letting the players show what they have.
-Kupchak and Jim have very similar vision.
-Hiring MDA instead of Jackson used to be a source of conflict between Jeanie and Jim. Jerry was still alive, otherwise, Jeanie, as president, would’ve hired Jackson instead of MDA.
-Phil was not chosen by Jim because Phil has his own way of doing things. Too many cooks in the kitchen.
-Every player wants to wear a Lakers’ uniform. We can still land any free agent and the problem does not lie with Kobe.
-Re-signing Kobe to $48m for 2 years is good for fans as Kobe will pass more milestones include 6th ring. Plus, Lakers had to spend above the spending floor.
A few more notes from a previous article about Jeanie’s response to losing Dwight Howard to the Houston Rockets:
“They would’ve probably had a better relationship if my dad hadn’t been sick. When it came time to try to convince Dwight to stay, we lost the best closer in the business in Dr. Buss.”
“Putting up the billboard maybe wasn’t the right thing. But we maybe have to learn to do things differently because Dr. Buss isn’t here anymore. People said [of the billboards], ‘Oh, that’s not the Laker way.’ Well, the Laker way isn’t the same, because Dr. Buss isn’t here.”
Quick and dirty:
Jeanie and Jim obviously have personal issues with each other.
1) Their management styles are obviously different. Jeanie want to capitalize on talent they currently have. She seems to be instrumental in re-signing Kobe, wanted to keep Howard and is high on Lakers current roster.
On the other hand, Jim believes in rebuilding the team every few years by leveraging the free agency.
2) Phil Jackson is a focus of contention between the siblings. Jeanie must have fought tooth and nail to keep Phil within the organization if not as head coach than in some other type of capacity. But, Jim didn’t want to share the “kitchen” with Phil.
3) Although Jeanie claims that Lakers have no problem landing free agencies, she also claims that they have lost their best closer in Jerry Busss.
Jim is a control freak who does not play well with others. He has low opinion of scouts and doesn’t want to share his toys with Phil or anyone else for that matter. In this aspect, he’s similar to Daryl Morey, Houston’s general manager, in that he does not respect traditional ways of basketball management and scouting as well as treating players like assets. It is hard to imagine him as the type of player executive who would empower his employees to make critical decisions.
On the other hand, Jeanie values Lakers publicity and infrastructure and probably doesn’t hold a championship as her ultimate goal rather she cares more about the “path” the Lakers take in getting to another championship by empowering her people rather than trying to buy one.