The summer of 2011 has brought on an entirely new LakerLand from the days of old. Gone from the top of the totem pole is Jerry Buss, who passed the operations of the franchise to his son Jim. Gone is the familiar coaching icon that was Phil Jackson, and gone were the mid-June confetti-laden celebrations with a season that ended in early May.
In the dog days of summer, the Lakers find themselves in the same spot as the 29 other NBA franchises, engaged in a lockout with no timetable for return. The uncertainty has led the Lakers to cost-cutting measures, ones that can dissociate themselves from the Phil Jackson era, but ones that also are purely economical as a result of a possible prolonged lockout.
According to a column from the Orange County Register, the Lakers chose not to renew nearly 20 expiring contracts for positions deemed unnecessary during the lockout. While the moves for the most part are to save funds, many of the long-time employees will now look to other teams for positions once the lockout is over.
Among the list of contracts allowed to expire were:
Alex McKechnie – Performance coordinator who worked to help big men Shaquille O’Neal and Pau Gasol build core strength, specifically coming to the aid of Gasol after the Memphis trade when Gasol’s issues with a sore back were a result of a lack of conditioning.
Ronnie Lester – Assistant general manager who discovered the next possible Laker big man in Andrew Bynum, and who had been with the club for 24 years .
Patrick O’Keefe – Video coordinator whom “Bryant would refer to as ‘my man’ for supplying all the extra personalized scouting footage he demanded.”
Chip Schaefer – Director of athletic performance and player development whose work in preventing and avoiding injuries came from his time in Chicago with Michael Jordan.
Rudy Garciduenas - Equipment manager who helped team trainer Gary Vitti with travel arrangements, worked as an administrative director for Magic Johnson’s Youth Camps, and had been with the Lakers since 1985
Chris Bodaken – Video coordinator who began working with the Lakers as a team attendent and intern before being hired full-time in 1993 to provide advance and college scouting video for the team.
Some former Laker employees have already begun looking for work with new clubs, with Alex McKechnie already moving on to the Toronto Raptors. While the positions aren’t necessary during the lockout where the league is destined to lose money, one has to have a level of concern for how the new Buss regime is treating it’s long-time employees, given these recent examples in addition to the coaching saga of Brian Shaw.