Another Lakers season awaits, and that means the franchise’s soap opera continues.
Less than a week before training camp starts Saturday, excerpts from Jeanie Buss’ updated memoir were published in the Los Angeles Times detailing frustration on how the Lakers handled last season’s coaching search in choosing Mike D’Antoni over Phil Jackson. Jeanie, Jackson’s longtime companion, also detailed how that soured her relationship with her brother Jim, the team’s vice president of player personnel.
Although he played a part in the Lakers’ coaching search, general manager Mitch Kupchak lent a sympathetic ear.
“My understanding was that the book or the comments were made a year ago,” Kupchak said Wednesday at the Lakers’ practice facility in El Segundo. “They’re completely understandable why she would feel the way she did. I get it completely.”
It appeared 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 a day after Brown’s firing, 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. Jeanie also said media reports suggesting Jackson had demanded a hefty salary and exemption to travel to select road games were untrue. Kupchak also said those reports were inaccurate.
Dwight Howard left the Lakers for the Houston Rockets this offseason, partly because of D’Antoni’s system, Kobe Bryant’s demanding leadership style and the uncertainty surrounding ownership following Jerry Buss’ passing seven months ago.
Does Kupchak believe the Jeanie-Jim dynamic will hurt the Lakers’ cause in attracting free agents next offseason?
“No. I don’t think that has anything to do with it,” Kupchak said. “The Lakers and Los Angeles remains a destination place for athletes of any sport. Wonderful supportive fan base and vibrant city.”
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