Magic Johnson says Jim Buss guilty of ‘critical mistakes’ with coaching hires
By Ben Golliver
Magic Johnson continued his criticism of the Lakers for hiring Mike D’Antoni instead of Phil Jackson on national television Wednesday night, hours after tweeting that he had been “mourning” for two days because of the decision.
Providing commentary on “NBA Countdown,” ESPN’s pre-game show, Johnson lashed out at Lakers vice president Jim Buss, son of owner Jerry Buss, for what he believes is Buss’ second consecutive mistake when it comes to selecting a head coach.
“I love Dr. (Jerry) Buss. I don’t believe in Jim Buss,” Johnson said on ESPN’s “NBA Countdown” on Wednesday night. “He’s made two critical mistakes already. To me, they made two critical mistakes.
“First, hiring Mike Brown — he wasn’t the right coach. He’s a great coach but not the right coach for the Lakers. And I don’t feel Mike D’Antoni is the right coach for the Lakers. Especially when you have Phil Jackson sitting out there, who wanted to be the Laker coach. Jim Buss decided he didn’t want Phil Jackson, he wanted Mike D’Antoni. And that’s OK, but why didn’t you just say that? But the fans were cheering for Phil Jackson two nights in a row.”
Asked by ESPNLosAngeles.com if he’d heard about Johnson’s on-air comments, Jim Buss said, “But I believe in Magic as I always have.”
Earlier Wednesday, Johnson expressed his dissatisfaction and disappointment with the D’Antoni hire on Twitter.
“The reason I haven’t tweeted in 2 days is because I’ve been mourning Phil Jackson not being hired as the Lakers head coach,” Johnson wrote. “My mother always taught me that if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”
Johnson’s latest comments add to a busy few days of post-hire criticism.
NBATV’s Chris Webber ripped D’Antoni for “quitting” on the Knicks when he abruptly resigned last March.
“We get on players for getting tickets and driving too fast. He quit in the middle of a year. You go in the locker room and sell winning and sell family … Guys got to trust you in the locker room. It has to be more than Kobe [Bryant]. It has to be.
“You don’t want your coach writing a book about you, you don’t want your coach talking about you and you don’t want your coach quitting on you and it being your fault. Ask the guys in New York, and they played better when he left. I don’t think this is about Phil Jackson, I think this is like, ‘How the heck did he [D'Antoni] get this job? You all want to be that different from Phil Jackson?’ That’s my honest opinion. How the heck did he get that job?
Todd Musberger, Jackson’s agent, criticized the Lakers for their treatment of Jackson.
“He’s a good faith person and he was dealt with poorly. It is indicative of the shabby way that organization is being run… Phil brought nothing but trophies to their bookcase and value to the franchise. He deserved to be dealt with honestly.”
Former Lakers assistant coach Kurt Rambis did too, singling out Jim Buss just as Johnson did.
“If you’re talking about having success and having this team and someone who knows how to guide a team to an NBA title, Phil is that guy,” he said. “There’s no second, third, fourth or fifth choice at this point in time. He’s that guy. I don’t know if Jim Buss knows one system from another in terms of how it fits with players, or what works best for players, or what’s the difference between them. I don’t know if he really understands that, so a lot of times decisions are made on gut feelings and with outside sources that have an influence on it.”
Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak said earlier this week that the decision to hire D’Antoni was made by Jerry Buss, Jim Buss and himself. He also said that it wasn’t his intention to mislead Jackson or wake him up in the middle of the night with news that D’Antoni was being hired instead.
Jackson was reportedly “stunned” by the Lakers’ quick hire of D’Antoni.