Lakernation loves Dr. Buss for his ingenuity as one of the most successful sports franchise owners. Lakernation loves Phil for his calming demeanor on the way to five championships. Lakernation loves Jerry and Mitch for getting us Shaq, Kobe, Pau, Dwight, and Steve Nash.
But how does Lakernation feel about the reclusive Jim Buss? For sometime now, he has been the top shot caller for the Laker front office and several of his moves have been called into question. Most recently, hiring Mike Brown without Kobe’s consent was met with sharp criticism from fans and media.
The termination of Mike Brown had Laker fans cheering and anticipating the return of Phil Jackson. But before Phil could even respond, Mike D’Antoni was announced as the new head coach. Magic Johnson expressed concern over the direction that the Laker front office is taking on ESPN’s NBA Countdown. “I don’t feel Mike D’Antoni is the right coach for the Lakers,” Johnson said. “Especially when you have Phil Jackson sitting out there, who wanted to be the Laker coach. Jim Buss decided he didn’t want Phil Jackson, he wanted Mike D’Antoni.”
One might even speculate that Jim Buss feared being overshadowed by Phil and Jeanie if he gave into Phil’s demands of a piece of ownership. Jim is allowing his personal feelings and ego get in the way of business. He is using the incredible, inherited gift that is the Los Angeles Lakers as a platform to right his wrongs of the past.
We can dig even deeper and find even more bizarre decisions Jim Buss has made. One of his earliest disasters in personnel hiring was Rudy Tomjanovich in 2004. Prior to hiring Brown, Buss laid off several of members of the Laker scouting team, including assistant GM Ronnie Lester. Then there was the case of making a man named Chaz Osbourne a Laker scout. Ken Berger of CBSSports.com first mentioned “Chaz the Bartender” in a scathing article highlighting some of dysfunction in the Laker organization following the Phil Jackson’s last season.
“That’s right, the book on Chaz is that he’s a former bartender who also happens to be longtime friends with Jim Buss from their days in the horseracing business,” wrote Berger. Whether Chaz is actually a bartender or not has been up for despite but the fact that a man who has no background in basketball is a scout for the NBA’s greatest franchise boggles the mind.
The incompetence of Jim Buss can be summed up in a infamous interview he gave to Sports Illustrated in 1998. “Evaluating basketball talent is not too difficult,” Buss said. “If you grabbed 10 fans out of a bar and asked them to rate prospects, their opinions would be pretty much identical to those of the pro scouts.”
On the other hand, could Jim Buss be a genius? As much as we hated the Lamar Odom trade, that move ended with the acquisition of Steve Nash. Despite the pleas to trade Andrew Bynum for the majority of his career as a Laker, it seems that he was shipped off at just the right moment to make room for Dwight Howard. Could Mike D’Antoni be another blessing in disguise? Only time will tell whether the Lakers are going back to the top mountain or off the edge of a cliff.