Magic Johnson has stepped down as president of basketball operations, Bill Oram of The Athletic reports. The franchise icon-turned-executive has served in the position since replacing Jim Buss in February, 2017.
Speaking to reporters in an impromptu press conference Tuesday night, Johnson said that he hasn’t yet told Lakers owner Jeanie Buss, Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times reports.
“I knew I couldn’t be face-to-face and tell her,” Johnson said (Oram).
Ganguli adds that Johnson hinted that he planned to fire head coach Luke Walton – a move that won’t necessarily happen now – but Dave McMenamin of ESPN clarifies that the decision to step down wasn’t related to Walton.
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reports that the Lakers coaching staff expected to be fired in the hours after the teams final game of the season and had believed that they were on the way out for months.
Johnson declined to comment specifically on whether Walton or general manager Rob Pelinka should keep their jobs (McMenamin) but did later say that he would willing to support the Lakers’ free agency recruitment efforts, should the team wish to have him (Ganguli).
Regardless of the coaching situation, a large part of the Johnson’s decision to leave his post seems tied to his reputation as a mentor to the league.
Per McMenamin, Johnson says that he feels more comfortable as a statesman for the game of basketball, free to congratulate and support players without fear of tampering accusations.
“I was happier when I wasn’t the president,” Johnson said (Dan Woikie of the Los Angeles Times).
In another tweet, Oram reports that Johnson was hurt by the Ben Simmons story that broke earlier this year, saying that he was made out to look like the bad guy for being willing to help train a player on an opposing team.
“I’m a free bird and I can’t be handcuffed,” Johnson said (McMenamin).
From another perspective, Wojnarowski tweets that Johnson never fully committed to the job, limiting his office hours and spending much of his time away from the team.