Kupchak out in Lakers housecleaning, Magic in charge now

The Lakers cleaned house in the middle of the season, turning the team over to Magic Johnson and naming Rob Pelinka as the new GM.

Bob Donnan | X02835
Feb 17

The Los Angeles Lakers named team legend Earvin “Magic” Johnson as president of basketball operations on Tuesday while conducting a housecleaning.In addition to Johnson’s appointment, the Lakers also announced the firing of general manager Mitch Kupchak and vice president of basketball operations Jim Buss.Jim Buss was fired by his sister, team governor Jeanie Buss. The two had been jointly running the organization since their father, Jerry, died in 2013. Jeanie is in charge of business decisions and Jim was overseeing the basketball operation.”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 in a statement. “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.”On Tuesday night, the Lakers hired prominent player agent Rob Pelinka as general manager, according to multiple media reports.Pelinka was the longtime agent for retired Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant. Pelinka will be the day-to-day executive running the organization, engineering trades and coordinating scouting and the draft, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical. Pelinka must divest himself as a player agent to take over the front-office job.From 1988-89 to 1992-93, Pelinka was a member of the University of Michigan basketball team, appearing in three Final Fours and winning the national title in 1989.Johnson was hired as an adviser earlier this month and was pushing to gain authority. He has been disappointed by the decline of a franchise that won five NBA titles during his playing career.”It’s a dream come true to return to the Lakers as President of Basketball Operations working closely with Jeanie Buss and the Buss family,” Johnson said in the statement. “Since 1979, I’ve been a part of the Laker Nation and I’m passionate about this organization. I will do everything I can to build a winning culture on and off the court. 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.”The Lakers haven’t been a cohesive operation for most of the time since Jerry Buss died. Jeanie Buss has recognized that fact and said it played a part in the decision.”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. We are determined to get back to competing to win NBA championships again.”The lack of direction led to deep tension in the organization — particularly between the Buss siblings.”Jim loves the Lakers,” Jeanie Buss said. “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. Our fans deserve no less.”Kupchak was a teammate of Johnson before retiring in 1986 and moving into the Lakers’ front office. He became general manager in the mid-1990s and put together five NBA title winners.”We are grateful for the many contributions Mitch has made to the Lakers over the years and we wish him all the best,” Buss said.The Lakers are in the midst of their fourth consecutive poor season and possess a 19-39 record (third worst in the NBA) at the All-Star break. Last season’s record of 17-65 was the worst in franchise history.Since the start of the 2013-14 record, the once-proud franchise has a record of 84-220.The Lakers also fired their long-time public relations director, John Black. He held the title of vice president of public relations.