Magic Johnson was named the Lakers’ president of basketball operations, while general manager Mitch Kupchak and vice president of basketball ops Jim Buss were fired.
LOS ANGELES — In a dramatic move that drastically reshapes the leadership structure of one of the NBA’s most illustrious franchises two days before the league’s trade deadline, the Los Angeles Lakers have named Hall of Famer Magic Johnson as their new president of basketball operations while firing both longtime general manager Mitch Kupchak and executive vice president of basketball operations Jim Buss.
“Today I took a series of actions I believe will return the Lakers to the heights Dr. Jerry Buss demanded and our fans rightly expect,” Lakers president and co-owner Jeanie Buss, Jim’s sister, said in a statement Tuesday. “Effective immediately, Earvin Johnson will be in charge of all basketball operations and will report directly to me. Our search for a new general manager to work with Earvin and coach Luke Walton is well underway and we hope to announce a new general manager in short order. Together, Earvin, Luke and our new general manager will establish the foundation for the next generation of Los Angeles Lakers greatness. ”
At 19-39, the rebuilding Lakers have the NBA’s third-worst record and the second-worst record in the Western Conference. They’re coming off a franchise-worst 17-65 season and have missed the playoffs for three straight seasons, the longest postseason drought in franchise history.
Johnson was drafted by the Lakers in 1979, won five titles with the franchise during the 1980s and recently re-joined the Lakers in an advisory role. Johnson has held titles with the Lakers in the past, including honorary vice president, which he resigned from in June. He has also previously owned shares in the team, which he sold to Dr. Patrick Soon Shiong in 2011.
“It’s a dream come true to return to the Lakers as president of basketball operations working closely with Jeanie Buss and the Buss family,” Johnson said in a statement.
“Since 1979, I’ve been a part of the Laker Nation and I’m passionate about this organization. I will do everything I can to build a winning culture on and off the court. We have a great coach in Luke Walton and good young players. We will work tirelessly to return our Los Angeles Lakers to NBA champions. ”
Kupchak spent 30 seasons with the Lakers, starting as a player, and was in his 17th as the team’s general manager. Jim Buss spent 19 seasons in the Lakers’ front office and was in his 12th as executive vice president of basketball operations.
In 2014, Jim Buss publicly announced in the Los Angeles Times that he would step down within three years if the team hadn’t made a deep playoff run by then. Both Buss siblings took on more responsibility after the death of their father in February 2013.
“Jim loves the Lakers,” Jeanie Buss said in the statement. “Although he will no longer be responsible for basketball personnel decisions, he is an owner of this team and we share the same goal: returning the Lakers to the level of greatness our father demanded. Our fans deserve no less. ”
Sports agent Rob Pelinka has emerged as an intriguing candidate to join the Los Angeles Lakers’ front office, sources told ESPN. Pelinka was the longtime agent of Lakers legend Kobe Bryant.
The blueprint for the agent to front-office transition was established by current Golden State Warriors general manager Bob Myers.
The Lakers also announced that they have parted ways with Lakers longtime publicist John Black, who was with the team for 27 seasons. Lakers chief operating officer Tim Harris will immediately search for Black’s replacement, the Lakers noted in their statement.
ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne contributed to this report