On Tuesday and Thursday, Los Angeles Lakers president and co-owner Jeanie Buss visited with the official television and radio broadcast partners of the Lakers looking to inject confidence to the shaken fans of the team and provide clarity into the structure of the organization.
Her message came across loud and clear.
“In my role as President of the Lakers, I am responsible to all the shareholders, not just my siblings,” Buss told ESPN AM 710 radio on Thursday. “I’m the Boss.”
Since the passing of Dr. Jerry Buss, fans have questioned the leadership of the Lakers, and even Kobe Bryant recently spoke out about the dynamic of the ownership. So, the daughter of the late great Dr. Buss explained how the team structure worked.
“I am president, and I am responsible, ultimately, for anything that happens for the team and decisions that are made. Now, in my position, I empower people in the organization to do their jobs.”
She continued, “Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchack are responsible for all basketball decisions. Now, they are empowered to do that. My job is to make sure, as a boss, that I provide them the tools that they need to do their job successfully, but it’s up to them to make the day-to-day decisions and how they operate their area of the business.”
The majority of fans have expressed outrage with how the Lakers have performed this season and the decision behind hiring Head Coach Mike D’Antoni. Added to that, the Lakers lost Dwight Howard over the summer, and the majority of the blame has piled onto the co-owner in charge of basketball operations, Jim Buss.
“I would say that we have a good working relationship,” Buss spoke on the "Mason and Ireland" radio show. “I have faith that Jimmy knows what he’s doing. He learned under my dad.”
When asked if she would consider firing her brother, Buss initially deflected the question and reminded fans that the Lakers were a "family business" and that her father had set up the current structure of the Lakers.
“Ultimately, I am the one voice. I am that person. I am at the top of the food chain,” Buss eventually relented. “In his job as head of basketball operations, he reports to me.”
Pressed further on whether she had the power to remove her brother from being head of basketball operations if the Lakers failed to improve over the coming seasons, Buss provided the answer fans had been waiting to hear.
“Absolutely,” Buss responded when asked if she could remove her brother from his position if the Lakers basketball situation never rebounded. “In my position, I can make changes, and I can make changes across the entire organization.”
Although she thought the structure of the team and ownership would be boring to fans, Buss answered the questions and explained the structure of how the team ownership was set up, as well as her philosophy on how to run the team.
“The Lakers are owned in a trust, and the trust, it has six beneficiaries, which are me and my siblings,” Buss said. “The trust is the majority shareholder of the Lakers. We have three other shareholders of the Lakers that own different percentages of the team.”
She continued, “When it comes to major decisions in any area of the organization, I like to get the blessings of the shareholders of which my siblings are the majority and build a consensus. Even if it isn’t something that all of them agree on, and I’m talking just major big decisions, I like to build a consensus, you know, work as a team.”
To say she sounded like her father was an understatement. The great Dr. Buss was known for listening to consenting and dissenting voices when making important decisions. When hiring people, he was famous for doing his research beforehand, but once he hired a person for a position, he would leave them to do their jobs.
In this case, the apple did not fall far from the tree, and the current President of the Lakers sounded an awful lot like the previous President of the Lakers.
“I would be accountable to the league for anything that goes on,” Buss reiterated her standing at the top of the organization.
One of the reasons for Buss’ media tour was that her fiancé, Phil Jackson, had recently left town to join the New York Knicks as president of that organization.
“I would have liked to see Phil come back,” Buss said referring to 2012 when the Lakers interviewed Jackson for the vacant coaching position. “That was a really tough time because I knew my dad was really sick.”
However, she stood up for her brother and Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak in their decision to not offer Jackson a position with the Lakers.
“I think people need to understand, it isn’t just Phil. They don’t need anybody else. Everything’s covered,” Buss explained. “There is no additional need for anybody to come in. Jimmy and Mitch have a like mind in how they see the game and what they want to accomplish with this team, and they have it under control. And they don’t need another voice whether that’s Phil or whoever. It isn’t about Phil.”
Clearly, she learned to let the proper people in place do their jobs. Buss added with humility, “I understand that and I respect that.”
Although many may question why she did not step forward sooner with her explanations, Buss provided the right answers and did not leave any questions unanswered. To all the distraught fans, the message was clear: Jeanie, not Jim, is the boss.