“(Life) always comes down into family and relationships, it doesn’t matter what the business is, and I think that’s intriguing to people. Everybody can relate to a family.” — Jeanie Buss, Lakers’ EVP of Business Operations.
LOS ANGELES — Indeed.
Yet most families don’t have to deal with their personal and business lives being scrutinized by a world that has never even sat down with them for a cup of coffee.
Long before the news broke that Lakers owner Jerry Buss was terminally ill with cancer, debate began among media and fans about who should follow in the good doctor’s legendary footsteps.
Thirty-three seasons as owner, 10 NBA titles and a knack for acquiring the best and the brightest players adds up to a legacy that won’t be equaled, let alone topped. However, as Lakers fans have shown time and again, they’ll settle for nothing less than a championship contender — every single year.
Executive vice president of player personnel Jim Buss, who — along with GM Mitch Kupchak — was already running the team during the owner’s medical battles, although Dr. Buss still had the final say on any matter involving the Lakers.
Jim Buss was largely responsible for the unpopular hiring of Mike D’Antoni instead of rehiring 11-time NBA championship coach — and Jeanie’s fiancé — Phil Jackson to coach the team once Mike Brown was fired, a move Jim Buss has said was endorsed by his dad.
A vocal group made it very clear that they were uncomfortable with Jim running the team, though, and made it known at every possible opportunity.
Local columnists were suggesting that “the Lakers are doomed to mediocrity” if Jeanie Buss didn’t engineer a palace coup to oust her brother and run the team herself.
Not surprisingly, many agreed with the sentiment — but Jeanie herself wasn’t one of them.
“My dad set up (the order of Lakers ownership succession) in a way that will keep our legacy going into the future,” she said at a recent team event honoring her late father. “And I have complete confidence.
“My dad left us in a position in which we were able to keep the team. You hear stories about families who can’t afford to keep a team after the original owner passes away because of the inheritance taxes. But my dad made a plan … and he put us in a really good position (to succeed).”
As the person in charge of the business side, Jeanie is dealing with the day-to-day operations of the team, not to mention the intricacies brought about by the NBA’s complicated new collective bargaining agreement. She feels that the new CBA was something that was done to bring the Lakers and a couple of other teams back to the pack as far as finances and on-court success.
With a huge smile on her face, she said that the Lakers are up for the challenge. Sort of like a Kobe Bryant taking a shot with the game on the line and the final buzzer about to go off.
“I understand that,” Jeanie said. “The Lakers are one of 30 teams and they want to make it so teams can compete every year for a championship. And also have a chance to succeed economically.
“But as much as they want to try to revenue-share things away, I truly believe the Lakers always have an advantage they can’t take away because of our experience, because of the brainpower in our front office.
“They can try to even the playing field as much as they can with all their rules and regulations, but the Lakers always have an advantage because of what we’ve been able to accomplish. That they can’t revenue-share away from us — no matter how hard they try.”
Probably the only thing that can destroy the Lakers legacy is infighting among the children who inherited the team.
Jeanie Buss says that isn’t about to happen.
“We’re all on the same page,” Jeanie said of her siblings — Jim, John, Janie, Jessie and Joey.