The Los Angeles Lakers have had little continuity over the past decade. Case in point: they are currently in the midst of their third front office power structure since 2015.
Magic Johnson’s resignation from his role as president of basketball operations has clouded the Lakers with even more uncertainty than usual. It’s not clear if the organization will replace him with an external candidate. It’s not clear if Rob Pelinka will get more power in the aftermath.
The Lakers have typically wanted to hire people with ties to the franchise to their most important positions. That’s why Magic, arguably the greatest Laker ever, became president without a search. That’s why Pelinka, Kobe Bryant’s former agent, followed him as a general manager.
Somehow, over the past few years, that philosophy has not extended to THE Lakers icon.
In a feature on Jerry West, currently a consultant for the LA Clippers, The Athletic’s Sam Amick reports that team owner Jeanie Buss never extended an offer to the Lakers legend to join the front office when she fired Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak in 2015. More importantly, it does not seem like that will change this time around:
But there are other elements to the local strategy, too, things like hiring a Lakers legend in West to be a trusted voice at a time when so many expected him to return to Laker Land (sources say that a similar role with the Lakers was never offered to West back then, and there is no indication that Buss is attempting to woo him to her side this time around either – despite Shaq advocating for such a move recently on TNT).
West’s relationship with Buss and the Lakers has been fairly rocky, recently. But here is a man who checks all the boxes, has the Lakers connection the organization so desperately wants for some reason, and is actually good at the job.
And yet, not even an inkling of interest.
West clearly does not want a big role in an organization at this stage of his career. He is not making daily decisions for the Clippers and did not do so for the Warriors before that.
But his presence in those organizations has coincided with incredible growth. The Warriors became a dynasty. The Clippers have continued to outshine the Lakers in their own city with smart decision after smart decision. Meanwhile, West has reportedly been laughing at the Lakers’ decision making benefiting his current organization.
In Amick’s feature, West claims he does not have any bad blood with the Lakers. He has also never explicitly said he would not want to work for them. He is leaving the door open for a return.
The Lakers’ incompetence isn’t based purely on not hiring Jerry West, who by all accounts has had a legendary career as an executive. It’s that they do not search at all for the correct hire.
Magic gets arguably the most coveted job in the NBA by being a former star player for the Lakers. No one even gets interviewed. Pelinka gets the job for fleecing $48 million out of the Lakers for a washed up Lakers icon. Even Luke Walton was hired without much of a search for other candidates.
At best, this is malpractice. At worst, it’s being cheap.
These same decisions have continued to bite the Lakers in the ass over and over again. And now there’s “no indication” that they have learned any lessons.