Mitch Kupchak: Jim Buss Gets ‘Too Much Criticism and Not Enough Credit’

Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak wisely went to bat for his wildly unpopular boss, Jim Buss, during an interview with the LA Times: “Buss’ title is executive vice president of player personnel for the Lakers, but he’s drawing more power every year as per the wishes of his father, team owner Jerry Buss. ‘Jim gets way too much criticism and not enough credit with the success this team has had,’ Kupchak said. ‘He is following in the footsteps of the most successful owner maybe of all time, which is hard to do. But since he’s gotten more and more involved, which has been about seven or eight years, we’ve had some pretty good moments.’ Buss was responsible for the Lakers’ ill-fated hiring of coach Rudy Tomjanovich in 2004, but he also helped nudge the team into drafting Andrew Bynum in 2005. It’s too early to tell the results of Buss’ latest decision, hiring Mike Brown to succeed Phil Jackson, even though Kupchak and Jerry Buss said they agreed with it. Kupchak, head of the Lakers’ basketball operations for 12 seasons, disputed Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson’s recent comments that Jim Buss was running the team. ‘It is inaccurate because there are three of us that are involved in all the basketball decisions,’ Kupchak said. ‘Dr. Buss still makes, to my knowledge, all the final decisions in the organization. He’s always deferred basketball decisions at some level to his basketball people, and Jimmy is a part of the basketball people. [Johnson] played at a time when this sport was taking off. There was one scout and a GM. Here we are almost 30 years later and it’s different today. There’s a lot more people involved and a lot more at stake [now]. [Johnson] is a fan now too. He’s no longer a part of ownership. He and I still speak, but we used to speak a lot, bouncing ideas off each other and stuff that he would hear. Like the rest of us, when you lose a game you shouldn’t lose, or lose a couple, you get emotional. This is the only thing he’s ever loved — the Lakers. It all comes from the heart with him.’ Johnson sold his 4.5% stake in the Lakers in 2010, but he remains on the payroll as a vice president.”