Since Dr. Jerry Buss handed his legacy as Los Angeles Lakers owner to his children, it’s been Jim Buss, rather than daughter Jeanie Buss, who’s taken the blame for the Lakers’ failures. Buss was blamed for failing to re-sign Dwight Howard, for hiring Mike Brown as head coach instead of Brian Shaw and for hiring Mike D’Antoni instead of Phil Jackson.
If you’re like me, this list makes you angry. Very, very angry.
But Buss has one hope if he wants to make his father proud and help the Lakers win more championships: let someone else run the Lakers for him.
Buss’ many failures in fact represent one absolute failure — his refusal to listen to members of the Lakers organization. Buss hired Brown as head coach against Kobe Bryant’s will; he signed now 40-year-old Steve Nash with his own hopes to bring back his dad’s Showtime era, and he hired D’Antoni with disregard to Howard’s — and all of Los Angeles’ — pleas for Jackson.
Yet Buss has had some success as a member of the basketball operations team at the Lakers. Lest we forget, it was Buss who assumed credit for signing Andrew Bynum. It was also reportedly Buss who brought back Pau Gasol. Both players helped lead the Lakers to NBA championships.
But Buss owes these successes more to Jackson than to his own aptitude for recruiting talent. Buss signed Gasol and Bynum only after recognizing Jackson’s desire for a dominant big man to integrate into his triangle offense.
That explains why Buss needs to listen to the players, staff and managers around him. They’re smarter than he is. Maybe Buss can even make a new position for one especially qualified basketball genius (yes, his first name is Phil) similar to the positions the Miami Heat created for Pat Riley and the Los Angeles Clippers for Doc Rivers.
That way, Buss will have another basketball mind, in addition to GM Mitch Kupchak, on which he can rely to make decisions. The more control Buss imposes on the Lakers, the worse the team gets. And now that he’s the head of basketball operations, he’ll have even more power.
For the sake of the Lakers, let’s hope he chooses not to use it.