Lakers Hire Magic Johnson to Advisory Position

Darius Soriano —  February 2, 2017

Los Angeles Lakers co-owner Jeanie Buss met with Hall of Famer and former Lakers point guard Magic Johnson on Tuesday night, sources with knowledge of the meeting told ESPN.

The exact nature of the meeting was not immediately clear, but sources said Buss has been soliciting opinions on the direction the franchise should take moving forward, after three straight losing seasons and possibly a fourth, with the Lakers already having lost 31 games this season.

The above is from a piece from ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne back in mid January. As Shelburne noted (and I have heard similar things), Jeanie Buss has been talking to folks about the direction of the Lakers and Magic, who is “like a brother” to her, is a natural sounding board for such discussions.

Well, it turns out, that discussion may have been more than just a friendly conversation and more like a precursor to what will now be a true working relationship. Because today it was announced that the Lakers have hired Magic to an advisory position. From the team’s press release:

The Los Angeles Lakers today announced that Earvin “Magic” Johnson will return to the Lakers to assist Jeanie Buss in all areas of basketball and business as an advisor…

…Johnson’s duties will include, but not be limited to, advising ownership on all business and basketball matters, collaborating with coaches, evaluating and mentoring players, assessing future franchise needs, and helping ownership to determine the best path for growth and success. Johnson will spend time at Lakers offices in El Segundo and will report directly to Jeanie Buss.

That sound you hear is Jim Buss’ job security taking nose dive.

Magic has a long history of needling Jim, the team’s current Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations. As recently as December 2015, Magic went on record to the LA Times saying Jim needed to take a step back from basketball decision making and focus on strictly being an “owner”:

“I’m going to say it again: I love Jim Buss. He should just be the owner, like his dad was just the owner,” Johnson said. “Let’s go back with facts, so I can back this up with facts: 27 wins a couple years ago, 21 wins last year. Three summers now, we haven’t signed anybody. I am backing this up with facts. We haven’t signed any superstar. We’ve had cap space. We had cap space last summer. We’re going to have more this summer.”

More from the same article:

“You’ve got to get somebody to help [Buss] out,” said Johnson, an unpaid Lakers vice president. “Just play your role. There’s nothing wrong with being a great owner.

“Just like me — I didn’t try to get involved in this [hiring] process, because I don’t know anything about the manager [Roberts]. That’s not what I know, so I stay out of the way. I want to sit down there and cheer for my Dodgers. I’m happy with that. That is what I want him to do. Just let somebody else help him to achieve his goal, which is to get the Lakers back to being great again.”

To be fair, Magic was complimentary of Buss (and Mitch Kupchak) for the hiring of Luke Walton. So, it’s not like he’s only gone negative towards Jim.

But those above quotes given to the Times are only 13 months old. And, since that time, the Lakers again did not “sign a star” in free agency and, arguably, may have had negative impact by spending excessively on contracts for Timo Mozgov and Luol Deng this past summer. When you combine this with the Lakers again in the hunt to keep their top 3 protected draft pick this summer by posting one of the league’s poorer records, I wouldn’t imagine Magic’s opinion of Buss has changed much since he made him a little over a year ago.

Also, I think Magic’s comments are worth unpacking a bit more. Magic directly compares his own lack of experience in baseball operations (referencing the hiring of manager Dave Roberts) — “That’s not what I know, so I stay out of the way.” — to Jim Buss, strongly implying that Buss too may not “know anything” even though he is (and has been) near or at the top of the basketball decision making tree for several years. I don’t want to ascribe extra meaning to Magic’s words, but I don’t think those comments paint Jim in a flattering light at all.

Now, combine all of the above with Jim Buss’ self-imposed deadline, Jeanie being on record multiple times that she will hold Jim to that timeline, and the Lakers almost a lock to not reach the markers Jim laid out for either this season nor the next season (2nd round/conference finals) and the writing on the wall is pretty clear from my vantage point. Magic may not end up being the “successor” to Jim and, honestly, I don’t think that happens at all. But if I were Jim, I wouldn’t only feel uncomfortable about an “advisor” being hired, I’d specifically be concerned about it being Magic — a person who has been a very public critic of my work over the last several years.

We will see how this all plays out. And maybe I’m putting too much Magic’s return to the organization. But I don’t think it takes a super sleuth to see the direction this could go.


Darius Soriano

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23 responses to Lakers Hire Magic Johnson to Advisory Position

  1. This could be good for the organization.
    Though Magic has made some comments which I thought were silly, he may understand that as an official Laker advisor now, he will need to ponder his words and advice a bit more carefully.
    As a whole, I’m happy with the move,..after all, they can’t get much worse.

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  2. I’m not sure most people realize that hiring Magic as an advisor isn’t the same as Warriors hiring Jerry Buss. I love Magic but I don’t see Magic having the same level of basketball expertise as Jerry in putting together a team or making a case for a player to join the team. I’ll be curious to see how this works out…

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  3. I like Magic as a public relations guy at times.  Retiring a player, congratulating someone, talking about the glory old days, etc.  He has a bad habit of shoving his foot in his mouth at times and throwing people under the bus when things are bad.
    I have zero confidence in him running a basketball organization.

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  4. rnkhan

    Jerry WEST you mean……but I hear ya……..If this is a move to get Magic into the Basketball operations dept., I would not be real comfortable with that.  BUT I think its more of a general advisor type of role and a way to bring him back into the Laker “family” without giving him a Vice President or other official management title.

    He has GOT to be here as more of a figurehead than actual DECISION MAKER.

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  5. Oops, yes, I meant Jerry WEST. Thanks for catching that!

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  6. Hallelujah! Today is a great day to be a Laker fan…. but what took so long?
    Bringing in Magic will have a bigger impact that any free agent we missed out on the last few years. The Lakers are finally in good hands.
    Goodbye Jimbo. Have fun in the Bahamas with Chaz.

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  7. Vasheed

    I agree that Magic should not be running basketball ops.  But bringing him back adds a shiny veneer to the Franchise and hey, MAYBE he can mentor D’Angelo Russell and help mold his PG game.  His PR appeal is real as long as he keeps his twitter comments toned down and doesn’t comment a week LATE on every big happening.  

    Its become a well known joke that Magic feels the need to comment on the OBVIOUS well after the story has broken and been hashed over by the mainstream media.  I hope he is done with that practice.  

    I would NOT be very comfortable with Magic ACTUALLY pulling strings and making roster decisions.  I can’t see that being his role at all really.  More of a figurehead type of position to me, is what he will be.  We shall see.

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  8. LT Mitchell

    But….But Buttttt………….Chaz makes those Mango Margaritas with that Chile Lime powder on the Rim just like in Baja!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  They can’t get rid of THE CHAZZZZZZ!!!!!!!!!! ; )

    I don’t think the Lakers are in Magic’s hands per se with this move.  But the stars are starting to align IMO to suggest a real FO shuffle this off season.  

    Still, its good to have Magic back and involved instead of pot shotting the FO from Chavez Ravine.

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  9. – Not only can Magic mentor DAR, but I would love for him to mentor Ingram as well….show him what it takes to be a tall PG.
    – We shouldn’t underestimate the importance of PR when it comes to recruiting free agents. The Lakers front office is viewed as a laughingstock around the league which hinders their ability to attract quality free agents. Today’s announcement goes a long way to help restore some of that Lakers luster.
    – I am not sure what Magics roles will be, but his most important role will be playing the Grim Reaper to Jimbo’s basketball career, and just that alone is wonderful news for the future of the Lakers.

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  10. I would be happier if Magic were auditioning for Jeanie’s job.  Magic’s insight as a Laker was to learn all he could from Jerry Buss.  He has been successful as a businessman and has worked to make others successful.

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  11. Darius; let’s be honest. Jeannie has made a strategic play to remove her brother as Vice President of Basketball Operations for the Los Angeles Lakers. We will soon be hearing, under the advice of Magic Johnson, Jim Buss will step down as VP of basketball ops at season’s end (or) asked to step down effectively immediately. Mitch Kupchak will be designated interim vp as well as resume his position as general manager until a new vice/president can be hired.
    Magic is no stranger to being heavy handed.
    Good for you Jeannie. Sorry to Jim Buss; he seems like a good guy. Sadly, meant well; met with the worst luck; appeared to be way over his head.
    Go lakers

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  12. BigCitySid10552 February 2, 2017 at 2:21 pm

    Let me be clear, I love the move. Many haven’t cared for Magic’s criticism of the Laker’s front office move, didn’t bother me. Another step in the right decision. Glad this got done w/o responding to another Laker who let it be known he was available for an opinion on improving the Lakers

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  13. LT Mitchell

    Good call on Magic being potentially impactful with Ingram.  Both he and Russell are considered tall for the PG position.  Ingram is right around Magic’s height so you would think Magic’s insight as a Tall PG would be great.  

    Poor Jim… he will be relegated to a simple MULTI MILLIONAIRE OWNER OF A GLAMOROUS SPORTS FRANCHISE IN LOS ANGELES.  Hopefully his new role isn’t TOO depressing for him! ; )

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  14. Magic is the Lakers biggest cheerleader. I don’t expect that to change. I doubt he will be making any real basketball decisions behind the scenes. But this is clearly the first step in showing Jim the door. I just hope Jeanie has her next few moves clearly planned out.

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  15. A Horse With No Name February 2, 2017 at 4:15 pm

    Jim is as good as gone.  No one named Buss or Magic should take over.  Magic has potential value to the organization in the areas of PR and perhaps player mentoring.  Plus Jeanie needs a new best friend.  Beyond those things, he should be a decision maker.   I will die a thousand times if one of the little brothers take’s Jim’s spot.  I hope Jeanie surprises me with a smart guy hire; but I’m not holding my breath.  Be careful what you wish for, Jim haters.  (I’m guessing Luke isn’t loving this either.)

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  16. I think the best move at this point, as noted by some others a week or so ago,  would be to bring in someone from outside the org. to be GM or VP/Basketball Ops. I don’t think Magic should be considered for such a job, and I think the Lakers need a fresh, contemporary, outsider’s perspective going forward. 
    I do agree with what Robert has been saying, though, about the Lakers improving the relationships with the legends, so having Magic around, in the right role, can be a plus. Same should be done with Kareem if he is interested.

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  17. A Horse With No Name

    While I don’t think she is as sharp and business savvy as some of the media makes her out to be, I think Jeanie will hire from outside the organization for sure.  I think the family has had its fill of the friction caused by having a BLOOD RELATIVE in a position that can be fired by the other BLOOD RELATIVES.  I would think this whole Jim Situation has been a learning experience that they need EMPLOYEES who can be dealt with as employees and not have to allow extra leeway because the person is a relative AND PART OWNER.  

    The younger Buss boys are not seasoned enough to jump Ryan West and take over the GM role.  I don’t mind them being involved if one of them has truly the acumen. 

    At this point though, no one is ready to just slide into that Upper Management role for Basketball Ops.  With all that is riding on such a major pivotal decision, I GOTTA believe that a NON BUSS will be hired.    

    If I am wrong, than things are MUCH worse than we’ve ever imagined.

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  18. new rr

    I agree with Robert as well as to the need to reestablish the relationships with our legendary players.  Kareem would be great in the right kind of role.  Worthy already is involved.  Coop too to a degree on broadcasts at least.  The grandeur of the franchise at this point is our history.  Might as well try to draw on that for what we can.  

    It can only improve the team image IMO.

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  19. A Horse With No Name February 2, 2017 at 5:48 pm

    Clay Bertrand A Horse With No Name Key error: I wrote ‘should’ instead of ‘shouldn’t’ about Magic’s decision making!  (Kind of killed my post…)

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  20. A Horse With No Name Clay Bertrand

    I caught your drift bro ; )    The context of that sentence led me to understand what you were sayin.  

    I think the gist of your post was that we shouldn’t just ASSUME Jeanie will make a perfect hire—which is certainly a salient point.

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  21. I have mixed feelings about this. While Earvin is an iconic American citizen and legendary basketball player, I thought that his constant berating of Jim Buss in public has had a very negative effect on the Lakers’ franchise. Magic’s platform and status is such that whatever he says is going to be taken as gospel by a certain segment of basketball observers. Portraying Jim Buss as incompetent made the Lakers entire organization look bad. As always I’ll hope for the best and that this and any subsequent moves work out for the best.

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  22. In spite of the fact that Magic is `no stranger to being heavy handed´ – as commenter david h has said – and that as much as I love the man, I must admit he´ll sometimes make me cringe a bit with his public criticism of the Lakers, I absolutely love having him on board again.
    I´ve said it before: what caught the unerring attention of a 15 year-old kid whose father had not an ounce of affinity with the great game of basketball, Magic invited me into HIS joyful world of this here game. I will always grateful for that. 
    Plus, hey, who doesn´t love the man?! Some don´t of course, but I´m talking `bout his Satchmo-like exuberance – a true ambassador for the game. 
    Go Magic!! Go Lakers!!

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  23. A Horse With No Name February 3, 2017 at 11:32 am

    Very telling that Jeanie brought her little brothers in to meet with Magic, along with informing sister Janie.  No Johnnie, and of course, no Jim.  This is how it’s going to break: the sisters and the little brothers unite to get rid of Jim.  Jesse and Joey support the move in exchange for guarantees by Jeanie of ascension in the organization.  I’ve said all along that Johnnie, Jim and Jeanie are likely the executors of the trust, the principal asset of course, being the team.  If that’s the case Jeanie may not be able to get rid of Jim if Johnnie holds out.  Of course, no comment from Jim or Mitch as yet . . . .

    ( Poor Dr. Buss, like most well-off parents he gave his kids too much; protecting them and sheltering them with company jobs.  They should have all been forced to complete college and taken off the family dime upon graduation.  Then returned to the organization after work world seasoning if they desired to.)

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