Jim Buss Back Under the Microscope

The funny part Friday was how Pau Gasol said Mike Brown being fired as Lakers coach sent a direct message to players that it’s time to step up now. Because losing four of five to the Thunder in the second round, then losing to the shorthanded Mavericks and undermanned Trail Blazers, then starting 0-3 for the first time in 34 years apparently wasn’t message enough.

Gasol is right about one thing: This just became a lot more about the roster and not the coach, especially if the almighty Phil Jackson is the successor to the man who succeeded him. It was about the players all along, really, only most people were in such a rush to pin the 2012 playoffs on newcomer Brown that they didn’t note master motivator Jackson got the same result a year earlier with the same sludge of poor focus and energy. Now, it really is time to step up.

What no one within the Lakers would – or could – say is that it just became about Jim Buss too. He is the son of the owner of the head of basketball operations as executive vice president of player personnel, with heavy input from general manager Mitch Kupchak. With his father no longer involved in day-to-day affairs, and rarely using veto powers on even major decisions like coaching moves, Buss is the one ultimately responsible for hiring Brown and then giving Brown five games to sort through many problems when it was obvious to all the 2012-13 Lakers would need transition time.

It doesn’t help that Buss is coming from a very unpopular place with fans, whether he cares or not. He is not Jerry Buss, beloved for bankrolling Lakers championships over decades, and he got into the front office of one of the marquee franchises in sports because of bloodlines, not a skill for talent evaluation. It was Jim Buss who was perceived as the driving force to rid the organization of any connection to Jackson and his domineering personality, including giving little consideration for Brian Shaw to become the successor because Shaw had been an assistant on Jackson’s staff, even though players openly hoped Shaw would get the promotion.

Fairness time, though. If Buss, the son, gets the blame for all that has gone wrong the last few years, and he has, then he gets the credit for what has gone right. Dwight Howard is a Laker. Steve Nash is a Laker. Jackson may be a Laker again. That’s a lot of improbable victories around the same time. Buss is also the exec who championed drafting Andrew Bynum out of high school in 2005, stayed the course when Bynum wobbled along with immaturity and injury, refused to budge when Kobe Bryant screamed for Bynum to be traded, and finally turned the investment into a better center, Howard.

The particulars of Buss’ actual role, compared to the work of Kupchak, will probably never be known. That is how it generally works – an owner or team president, sometimes with no basketball training, will push the button on a trade or a contract or a coaching hire and the GM will take the hit it the outcome is bad. This would be especially true in the case of Kupchak, as professional as they come. No way he ever outs one of the bosses for a decision gone wrong.

When Bryant tried to blast his way out of town, Kupchak took the grief. When the Lakers kept Bryant and got championship good again, Kupchak received little public credit. It’s a little like that now with the executive vice president of player personnel, with the obvious difference that he cannot be fired as a Buss. The son is essentially in the job as long as he wants it.

If the Lakers hire Jackson, and developments were clearly headed in that direction as soon as Kupchak said at the Friday press conference that it would be “negligent not to be aware he’s out there,” also known as “Of course we’ll be in contact,” then Buss will have made another popular decision. Brown out, Jackson closer to being in, a 101-77 win over the Warriors with an actual sustained effort – it was a nice Friday for fans and at least some corners of the locker room. It was a start on the recovery.


  1. Chester says:

    the bench needs an overhaul big time. i would look at some cheap veterans who need work like michael redd, kenyon martin and josh howard. all talented guys who have more to give

  2. Bok says:

    Brown’s a good coach, but he doesn’t get the respect from his players. Not that they don’t, but he doesn’t possess that “power” or command to a point that the players seems to don’t care to what he says. I also think that the current offense (Princeton) isn’t working for them. Let the players play loose, enjoy the game. Let Nash plays pick & roll to either Gasol or Howard, let Kobe have his isolations, let Howard & Gasol post up, give more time to Jordan Hill, let Blake spot up for 3’s, and “tweak” the bench.

  3. KeCe says:

    I Don`t think Jackson will come back… He would die courtside if he does. I think Charles B is right and LA needs a coach that handles a faster pace offensively. That’s why I`d like Mike D’Antonio on the job.

    Jerry Sloan and Brian Shaw would be my alternative choices.

    Good move by Lakers staff to fire Brown. The feeling/chemistry was never healthy. If it’s the players fault we will find that out in a few months. But i don`t believe the lakers have a roster that should lose that many games early on!

  4. W/E says:

    If D12 was not injured and if he was half as good as Shaq was in the 1999-2002 seasons the lakers would have a chance for a ring.But he never was nowhere near Shaqs level and that unfortunate back injury seems to have crippled his athleticism…I dont think an old Phil Jackson would want to come back to coach a crippled old soft lakers team.

  5. Eugene says:

    How many people in here have been watching the Lakers for the past 40-years like myself? My guess? Not many. OF COURSE PJ wants too return. ANYONE who knows anything about the situation KNOWS that PJ told the Orlando press that he wanted to comeback and coach Howard. When asked? Howard, Kobe, Pau, Ron-Ron and Nash all said that they would welcome PJ back so long as he is healthy enough. Otherwise, M Dan. will be more than adequate. Kobe and Nash like him a lot and have told Pau and Howard they will get more pick and rolls than a “thief on skid row!!!” My goodness, I like young Laker fans, but they know SO LITTLE!!!

  6. whats wrong with you guys says:

    I seriously don’t get what’s wrong with the people who come posting ‘hate-kobe’ comments. Kobe is doing great, he isn’t shooting that much, he is carrying the team. Why do you guys always blame Kobe? Do you guys actually watch the games at all?

  7. Dave says:

    i think it’s correct decision. lakers have very good roster and very good players but they can’t win other teams. because mike can’t drive them.

  8. boki says:

    the biggest problem was the offense, too many TO-s, i mean they didnt have to fire the coach, but it was clear that the princeton offense was not fit for the team. The bench was lost, the starters could implement the offense somehow, but the bench couldn’t and that was the problem. they played by the “blueprint” and not by what the opponents defense gave them.

    sry for English 🙂

  9. JUICE says:

    Oh boy, all i see in everything thats happenin to the lakers is yet another adjustment period. 4 different offensive systems in what, 3 seasons? Just hope the lakers eke out wins in those premeditated “adjustment periods”

  10. Adam says:

    if i was Phil i would turn them down or ask for the main front office position. Jackson runs the triangle which will not fit Howard or nash, plus with his health and age the lakers should opt for a more long term option.
    Jackson has more to lose if he signs on and they fail in the playoffs like his last year. dantoni is no good for defence.

  11. steppx says:

    I think jackson is a good coach. I happen to think he’s also been very fortunate. All the zen master bulls%#t aside, he’s probably not as good an X &Os guy as Carlisle, or Sloan , or Thidbs, and maybe not the theoretical visionary that Popovich and Karl are. But he’s good. Mike Brown was not good. He is in that third tier of guys like randy whitman, Keith Smart and Avery Johnson……..who go through the motions, and hope to get along well enough to keep the job a couple years.

    IF Jackson is hired, and Im thinking he will be, he faces the worst roster he’s ever had to coach. By far, in his whole career. So…………..Zen only works if you have MJ or a young Kobe. An old kobe, a dunce giant center, and a d league bench is not what he’s used to.

  12. ice says:


  13. Wilt #13 says:

    Well I think That the lakers did the biggest mistake of the season.
    The 2010-11 Heat Team had the same problem and having a bad start into the season,But spo’ didnt get fired or anything like that!
    Pet Raily Gave him time to get his team to there full Power and strengh.Which he did last season with winning the ring beating okc when down 0-1
    When down 1-2 to indina
    and when going to boston to a win-or-go home when down 2-3
    I think they needed to give them more time .
    Not talking about D12 having bad back problems.When steve nash is hurt in his ankle or legg.When kobe hardly can play with his foot injury. AND having maybe the worst bench in the NBA. Bad move by the lakers by firing Mike brown who is a Great coach.

    • Carl says:

      What you fail to realize is that Erik Spoelstra had been coaching under Pat Riley for years, so when the time came for him to take the reins, he was prepared. Mike Brown wasn’t like that. He wasn’t the right coach in the first place. It should have been Brian Shaw.

    • Game Time says:

      “Pet Raily” lol

  14. the laker’s problem wasn’t the coaching and i think it’s sad for coach brown’s family that he was pointlessly fired. my Opinion is that the laker’s really should have just limited kobe’s shots becasue they’re at their best with kobe shooting 12-17 shots, this 20-something thing isn’t working, whether you can blame it on bigs not being open or just selfish play is in the eye of the beholder

    • Carl says:

      Kobe’s shooting over 50% right now. Try again.

    • Tony says:

      To all that said that Mike Brown shouldn’t been fired don’t know much about basketball , while Mike Brown is a good coach, the Lakers need a great coach. They need a coach that will command respect, have a game plan that put the team in the best position to win, make the players play to their strengths, be able to make they’re star players “bow down and buy into what is best for the team. ( See Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal), teach even veterans how to learn what they need to get better . I just didn’t see that in Mike Brown in L.A or Cleveland.

  15. Talcott says:

    Shaw, D Antoni, Sloan Phil…..

    Anyone that Jives with purple n GOLD!

  16. mk says:

    first comment YOLO

  17. GniK911 says:

    i think lakers management can pull this one off…they have a really good chance of re/hiring phil jackson…

  18. Jason says:

    Until and unless the players can do something to prove that they want to win, a new coach will not help. Phil Jackson on the other hand, that’s a different story. The Lakers are not playing as a team. Kobe’s still carrying the scoring burden. How do you expect them to win the Finals if it’s only Kobe who is making an impact? Howard is playing like Gasol was playing last year, SOFT! With the injury of Steve Nash, things just got worse. How are they going to gel with an injured Nash? They need him to run the plays. Lakers team is just overrated. It’s not always the coach’s fault if the team loses, it’s also the player’s fault. I don’t get why Mike Brown got all the blame. Kobe is also to blame. He is not doing anything to make his teammates better. He is not being a team leader. He is not being a TEAM PLAYER! Lakers won’t win the Finals if it’s only Kobe who puts up big numbers.

    • Scott The Magician says:


    • Carl says:

      Dwight Howard hasn’t played basketball in six months, and is still playing like he never left. Leave him alone. You are right though. Kobe should NOT be doing it all anymore.

    • Watcher says:

      “Kobe is also to blame. He is not doing anything to make his teammates better.” Would it be a fair perspective to suggest maybe Kobe just exposes the true barometer an all-star should be measured at when they play next to someone who really has champion blood pumping through their veins?