When Los Angeles Lakers owner Jeanie Buss made the decision to shake up the front office by firing her brother, Jim Buss, as well as longtime general manager Mitch Kupchack, she simultaneously elevated Magic Johnson into a role as president of basketball operations.
Buss empowered Johnson to make all decision pertaining to that side of the franchise, while her focus, as it had been, was to remain in business dealings. Shortly after installing Johnson as the head of the front office, Buss then hired Rob Pelinka to handle GM duties.
After two years, Johnson’s and Pelinka’s time together came to an abrupt end. Johnson held an impromptu press conference Tuesday night during which he announced his resignation.
During an appearance on ESPN’s “First Take,” Stephen A. Smith suggested Johnson’s decision stemmed in some part from not receiving authority to fire Pelinka:
“In fairness to Jeanie Buss and Rob Pelinka, when I was told — I was told — that Magic Johnson walked into there and talked with Jeanie about wanting to get rid of not just Luke Walton, but Rob Pelinka as well, that’s when Jeanie Buss got her backup. Jeanie Buss and Rob Pelinka called me last night, categorically and emphatically denying that there’s any truth to that whatsoever. But whether it’s Wojnarowski, whether it’s Ramona Shelburne, or a host of other NBA reporters, all of us have heard [Johnson wanted to fire Pelinka] within the last 12 hours.”
Until these latest developments, it was widely speculated a forthcoming move from Johnson was the firing of Lakers head coach Luke Walton. Johnson had a heated meeting with Walton during the first week of the regular season, and the third-year coach remained on the hot seat after that.
Although Johnson and Pelinka regularly spoke positively about their relationship and the triumvirate formed with Buss, fact of the matter is they did not have prior experience working together. Nor did Johnson hire Pelinka to work under him.
And while Buss may have prevented Johnson from firing Pelinka, she reportedly had agreed to parting with Walton at the end of the season.