Jeanie Buss: Lakers passing over Phil Jackson “practically destroyed me”

Jeanie Buss answers talks to the media about the Lakers at a Time Warner event to honor the late Jerry Buss in Los Angeles.  Photo by David Crane/Los Angeles Daily News

Jeanie Buss answers talks to the media about the Lakers at a Time Warner event to honor the late Jerry Buss in Los Angeles. Photo by David Crane/Los Angeles Daily News

Almost 10 months have passed since the Lakers passed on Phil Jackson and chose Mike D’Antoni as instead to take over for Mike Brown as the team’s head coach.

There’s one significant person within the Lakers who remains unhappy about it.

Jeanie Buss.

The Lakers president revealed in her updated memoir, “Laker Girl,” co-written by former Los Angeles Times sportswriter Steve Springer, how the team’s front office handled the coaching search negatively affected her emotional well being.

“The sequence of events — Phil almost coming back and then being told someone else was better for the job — practically destroyed me,” Buss wrote, according to excerpts. “It almost took away my passion for this job and this game. It felt like I had been stabbed in the back. It was a betrayal. I was devastated.”

Buss has obvious allegiences to Jackson, two longtime companions that have since become engaged within the last year. At a Time Warner Cable Media sponsored event this summer that honored the later Lakers owner Jerry Buss, Jeanie also said she feels “biased” toward Jackson considering he won five of his 11 NBA championships in two separate stints with the Lakers (1999-2004, 2005-2011). But Buss’ new book also details how the Lakers’ coaching search negatively hurt Jeanie’s relationship with her brother Jim, the Lakers’ vice president of player personnel.

It appeared that the Lakers would hire Jackson, a sentiment plenty of Lakers fans supported with “We Want Phil” chants in the two ensuing home games following Brown’s firing. Despite Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak and Jim Buss visiting Jackson at his Playa Del Rey home, the Lakers chose D’Antoni. Kupchak delivered the news in an infamous midnight phone call the evening before Jackson thought they’d meet again to discuss the coaching position.

“I felt that I got played. Why did they have to do that? Why did Jim pull Phil back into the mix if he wasn’t sincere about it?” Jeanie Buss wrote. “Phil wasn’t looking for the job, and then he wasted 36 hours of his life preparing for it when they were never in a million years going to hire him anyway. How do you do that to your sister? How do you do that to Phil Jackson? I hope the flirtation with Phil wasn’t just a PR stunt. I still can’t get my head around the whole story.”

Jeanie’s sentiments about this situation are hardly surprising. She expressed dissatisfaction this summer over how the Lakers’ front office handled the coaching search. But Jeanie’s published sentiments raises questions on how Jeanie and Jim will work together following their father’s passing.

The Lakers have set up a trust that are run by Jeanie, Jim and Johnny Buss. Buss’ other children – Joey, Jesse and Janie Drexel – also have ownership stakes. Jeanie has been the team’s executive vice president of business operations for 14 seasons. Jim has spent eight of his 15 years with the organization as the Lakers’ executive vice president of player personnel.

Jeanie wrote she believes the Lakers’ claims, including from Jim, that the elder Buss also approved of the D’Antoni hire. She also said she respects that she oversees the business operation and shouldn’t handle any basketball matters. But she openly wondered why the Lakers interviewed Jackson if they didn’t have intentions to hire him.

“Despite my brother’s desire to open up the channels of communication between us, we still rarely if ever discuss basketball,” Jeanie wrote. “That should be okay because my dad was confident the franchise could be run that way. But I want my brother to realize that I’m not the enemy.”

Considering Jeanie’s sentiments divulge private conversations, it remains to be seen if Jim receives that messsage as an olive branch.


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Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at

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