A “weird feeling” crept over Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak, and the reasons went beyond grieving over the late Lakers owner Jerry Buss dying Monday from an undisclosed form of cancer that affected his kidneys.
The Lakers have to find a way to maintain the legacy Buss left. Buss, 80, bought the Lakers in 1979, when he purchased the team along with the Forum, the NHL’s Kings and a 13,000-acre ranch in Kern County from Jack Kent Cooke for $67.5 million. Buss then oversaw 10 of the Lakers’ 16 NBA championships and built a franchise Forbes magazine recently valued at $1 billion.
No pressure, right?
“Is there a way to replace him and do exactly what he did and how he did it?” Kupchak said. “No. We’ll just have to tackle it our own way.”
Jim Buss will remain as Lakers executive vice president of player personnel, a title he’s had in eight of his 15 years with the organization.
Jeanie Buss will keep her title as the Lakers’ executive vice president of business operations, a role she’s had for the past 14 seasons. But there’s one significant change on who’s in charge.
“I report to Jimmy Buss,” Kupchak said.
Below Kupchak outlined the various qualities of Dr. Buss, Jim and Jeanie. Kupchak also talked about his Dr. Buss’ other four children.
Kupchak on Dr. Buss: “He was a loyal man. The one thing he always came at a problem from a different space. You could think you had all the angles covered in an acquisition, trade or free agent or problem and you sit down with him and out of the blue he’d come at you from a different angle. A very unique angle. Most of the time, the conversation that followed was productive. He would never say he was right all the time. But he had a unique way of looking at almost every problem. I was never able to exactly or precisely predict what i was in for when I would meet with him.”
Kupchak on Dr. Buss’ work schedule: “As years went on, he was never a man that was in the office at 9 in the morning. You might see him leave the office at 9 in the morning. But you didn’t really see him walk in the office at 9 in the morning. His hours were unusual.
He was a little different in his approach to business. But he was always accesible and quick to move to his cell phone when they came out and quick with technology and very easy to reach at any point in time. A lot of our work is done in the offseason in the summer time and he’d typically leave the country and go to Italy for six weeks. We always had a way of communicating. We picked a certain time and it was never a five star hotel. It was a nice hotel. The phone would ring downstairs in the lobby and the guy would answer the phone and spoke Italian. Then he’d have to go up to the room, have Dr. Buss come down. It was a boutique kind of situation. It was never easy,but it always worked.
Kupchak on how Dr. Buss worked with others: “He allowed the people that ran the day to day business to hire the people and keep the people as long as he felt they should be kept. He had a vision and got involved in the big decision. Whenever there was an issue, he would be involved in it it. He hired people and let them hire other peopl
Kupchak on Lakers vice president of player personnel Jim Buss: “Jimmy dresses like Jerry. His lifestyle is similar. He comes in much more than his dad did. He spends a lot more time with me than his dad did. He’s very strong in his opinions. Yet after an hour, two or three, if I feel strongly, he’ll defer. That’s what his dad. That goes back to what we talked about earlier. You hire people to do a job. Dr. Buss always gave his opinion. But most of the time, he’d say, that’s how I feel Mitch. That’s how I feel Jerry. But as you know, I’ll defer to you.”
Kupchak on Lakers vice president of business operations Jeanie Buss: “Jeanie is very businesslike in her approach and executive like in her approach … She’s in the office every day at normal executive work hours … Jeanie is always in.”
Kupchak on the working relationship between Jim and Jeanie Buss: “That’s a question for them to be honest with you. I’ve been with Jimmy lots of times and he says I have text my sister or I have to call my sister. He’ll disappear and go down to Jeanie’s office. They’re texting and communicating on the phone and visiting in person. That’s not to say everything’s perfect all the time. But I’ve been with them on decisions and sharing information. They communicated and worked very well together.”
Kupchak on Johnny Buss, the executive vice president of strategic development: Johnny ran the Sparks for a great period of time and had great success. I think they had won a couple of championships. Probably a combination. He was very hands on, wasn’t around a lot. I know he worked in indoor soccer. Since his work with the Sparks, he hasn’t been as involved the last couple of years. Like Jimmy, he’s a jeans guy, T-Shirts. very similar to the dad. They dress very similar and have sneakers, white socks and jeans. Very casual in their approach. I would put him and Jimmy int he same category.
Kupchak on Joey Buss, chief executive of the D-Fenders: “Joey spends a lot of time as the president of the D-Fenders, runs the operation and makes a lot of decisions daily … Joey is always in.”
Kupchak on Jesse Buss, the director of scouting: Jesse works for me as a scout. he’s learning the business. He has a keen eye … Jesse doesn’t come in as much.”
Kupchak on Janie Drexel, the director of charitable services: “Janie is in charge of the youth foundation and rarely comes in. She leans more toward Dr. Buss’ lifestyle.”
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