When former Los Angeles Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson suddenly stepped down, attention quickly turned to who would replace him to run the team’s front office.
Golden State Warriors president of basketball operations Bob Myers was rumored as a favorite, but one of the more interesting names mentioned was a familiar one, Miami Heat president and former head coach Pat Riley.
Riley has been one of the league’s best executives for a long time and is part of the Lakers family. Owner Jeanie Buss and company have always stressed the importance of understanding what it means to be a Laker and Riley checks that box as well.
By this point, the Lakers have made it clear that no one will be hired to replace Johnson and his position will simply be eliminated. Riley also revealed that, according to Jackie MacMullan of ESPN:
“I have thought [about returning to the Lakers] only from a sentimental standpoint,” Riley said. “But I was never pursued by them. Nobody officially contacted me. I have about 20 friends wishing I would come back, but nobody asked.
Staying with the Heat has allowed Riley to stay away from all of the drama surrounding the Lakers. Johnson recently appeared on ESPN’s First Take to give his side of what happened with the Lakers, saying general manager Rob Pelinka backstabbed him.
This coincided with some prior reports about Pelinka’s reputation arounnd the league and how he can’t be trusted. However, Riley has had no issues with Pelinka:
Riley made it clear that though he respects Johnson’s right to speak his mind, he doesn’t concur with Magic’s distrust of Pelinka, adding, “I’ve never had a problem with Rob.”
As it stands, it is Pelinka who is in charge of basketball operations for the Lakers as he broke down the layout of the front office during a recent press conference. The onus will be on him primarily to help build the roster for the 2019-20 NBA season.
The Lakers choosing to not even reach out to someone like Riley is similar to their decision to not contact Jerry West in previous seasons. Both are successful front office members with Lakers ties, but they believe they have everyone they need in place. Time will tell if they’re correct in that assessment.