An excerpt from the upcoming update to Jeanie Buss’ ‘Laker Girl’ Memoirs has revealed that the chief of Los Angeles Lakers business operations was dismayed and disappointed by the choice to hire Mike D’Antoni as the team’s new head coach last November as opposed to her fiancee Phil Jackson. Jeanie’s outright criticism is hardly likely to help a Lakers’ organization currently on the back-foot while being led by her brother Jim Buss after the passing of legendary Laker owner Jerry Buss.
Jeanie, who holds a tremendous amount of respect as a basketball mind around the NBA, even used the word ‘betrayal’ to describe the way in which Jackson was brought into the selection process only to be looked over for D’Antoni. She described the way in which Jackson was convinced to consider coaching again even while not looking for a job. She writes directly of her anger against the way in which she was treated as a sister to Jim and the way in which Jackson was treated as a future hall-of-fame member and a man of historic importance to the organization.
The rift comes after a season where a Lakers team featuring Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol and Steve Nash failed to impress all year long slumping to a low playoff seed before being dumped in a 4-0 sweep in the first round by the San Antonio Spurs.
It piles on the pressure for a franchise that is already experiencing one of its worst offseasons in recent memory. Howard’s decision to choose the Houston Rockets was a kick in the teeth for a team that is used to being everyone’s favorite destination. The Lakers were unable to bring in any marquee names via free agency or trade, and the man who it all will rely upon, Kobe Bryant, is trying to recover from a major Achilles tear. There is a lot of talk suggesting that the Lakers won’t even make the playoffs and the current outlook for the future isn’t all that bright.
The treatment of Jackson, one of the game’s most revered and highly-respected coaches, and Jeanie’s subsequent calling out of that treatment can only go to further harm that reputation. The Lakers will desperately need to attract at least one major free agent next offseason and even in what is currently a loaded 2014 class, there are no obvious names bound for LA.
Jeanie’s memoirs did state that she wanted to discuss basketball and work with her brother on that side of things. However, public declarations like this are hardly likely to build a positive working relationship. Jim has already shown pretty clearly that he is keen to do things his way and that he doesn’t want to be pushed. It has been widely reported that the D’Antoni hire was very much ‘his decision’. Most would agree that that hasn’t worked out too well so far.
It does seem highly likely that Jackson would have gotten a little more out of LA’s strong looking front court last season. His triangle offense, or a likely variation of it, would surely have suited Bryant’s supporting cast trio Howard, Nash and Gasol better than D’Antoni’s attempted fast-paced offense. There’s also no denying that Jeanie is very biased when it comes to anything to do with Jackson, they are engaged after all.
The reality is that ‘Laker Nation’ desperately needs the Buss family to unite and work together if the franchise is to successfully re-build itself back into a legitimate contender in the near future. The 2013-14 season looks distinctly unpromising and some serious moves will need to happen if 2014-15 is going to look any brighter.