LOS ANGELES: Earvin “Magic” Johnson, who sparked the Los Angeles Lakers to five NBA titles in the 1980s, was on Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila) named president of basketball operations for the struggling NBA squad.
Lakers president and part-owner Jeanie Buss also announced the firing of general manager Mitch Kupchak and vice president of basketball operations Jim Buss, Jeanie’s brother and son of former owner Jerry Buss, who died in 2013.
“Today I took a series of actions I believe will return the Lakers to the heights Dr. Jerry Buss demanded and our fans rightly expect,” Jeanie Buss said. “Effective immediately, Earvin Johnson will be in charge of all basketball operations and will report directly to me.
“Our search for a new general manager to work with Earvin and coach Luke Walton is well underway and we hope to announce a new general manager in short order. Together, Earvin, Luke and our new general manager will establish the foundation for the next generation of Los Angeles Lakers greatness.”
Hall of Famer Johnson, 57, was part of the fabled “Showtime” lineup alongside Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the NBA all-time scoring leader. “Magic” was part of Lakers championship squads in 1980, 1982, 1985, 1987 and 1988 before retiring in 1991 after being diagnosed with the HIV virus.
The Lakers returned to greatness behind superstar guard Kobe Bryant with five NBA crowns from 2000-2010 but have fallen on hard times since.
“It’s a dream come true to return to the Lakers as president of basketball operations,” Johnson said. “Since 1979, I’ve been a part of the Laker Nation and I’m passionate about this organization.”
At 19-39 this season, the Lakers have the third-worst record in the NBA, ahead only of conference doormats Brooklyn and Phoenix.
“I will do everything I can to build a winning culture on and off the court,” Johnson said. “We have a great coach in Luke Walton and good young players. We will work tirelessly to return our Los Angeles Lakers to NBA champions.”
Jeanie Buss said she acted so the organization would unite behind one vision and plan for improvement going forward.
“I took these actions today to achieve one goal. Everyone associated with the Lakers will now be pulling in the same direction, the direction established by Earvin and myself,” she said. “We are determined to get back to competing to win NBA championships again.”
Kupchak, 62, had been controling general manager of the Lakers since 2000. He won NBA crowns with the Lakers playing alongside Johnson in 1982 and 1985 as well as with Washington in 1978.
Jeanie Buss said that she and her brother shared the same desire in seeing the team prosper once more.
“Jim loves the Lakers. Although he will no longer be responsible for basketball personnel decisions, he is an owner of this team and we share the same goal: returning the Lakers to the level of greatness our father demanded,” she said.