Magic Johnson abruptly stepped down Tuesday night as president of basketball operations for the Los Angeles Lakers.
“I was happier when I wasn’t the president,” Johnson told reporters during an impromptu press conference.
Team owner Jeanie Buss, despite being just as stunned as the rest of the hoops world, put out a classy statement.
Per The LA Times:
“It’s a difficult decision,” Johnson said, as he began to cry. “I cried before I came here; I’m about to cry now. But, it’s hard when you love an organization as much as I love this organization. It’s hard when you love a person like I love Jeanie. And I don’t want to disappoint her. I don’t want — we love Luke. So I’ve got to make a decision. And that’s a tough thing.”
Johnson attributed his decision to several factors. He said he didn’t want to have to ask Jeanie Buss to fire Walton, someone for whom Buss has a great deal of affection. He said he was tired of the “backstabbing and the whispering” but never explained exactly what he meant. He said he was tired of not being able to talk to players on other teams and mentor them without the specter of tampering.
Johnson was asked if he would like to see Walton remain the team’s head coach. He was also asked if he believes Rob Pelinka is the right general manager for the franchise. He said both were decisions for Buss. A person familiar with Buss’ thinking said Johnson’s decision did not guarantee Walton’s job was safe.
“I’m good with where I am,” Johnson said Tuesday as his time with the Lakers came to an end. “I’m happy. I want to do the things I used to do. So I had to weigh both situations. So, this is better for me.”