LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com/AP) — Magic Johnson is leading the Los Angeles Lakers again after a major shake-up of the struggling franchise’s front office.
The Lakers on Tuesday fired general manager Mitch Kupchak and named Magic Johnson president of basketball operations days before the NBA trade deadline.
Magic replaces co-owner Jim Buss, who will no longer serve as Lakers Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations.
Jim Buss retains his ownership stake in the team, but Jeanie Buss has final say under the structure set up by their late father, Jerry Buss.
She used it to chart a new course for the Lakers, who are mired in the worst four-year stretch in the 16-time NBA champion franchise’s glorious history.
“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.
Jeanie Buss made the extraordinary moves two days before the trade deadline. The Lakers have the NBA’s third-worst record at 19-39 this season, plummeting out of contention after an encouraging 10-10 start under new coach Luke Walton, who got a strong vote of confidence.
Johnson’s return to the franchise fed speculation that an organizational shakeup was underway.
Mitch Kupchak was originally an assistant general manager under Jerry West beginning in 1986. He succeeded West in the position in 2000.
Jim Buss had been in the Lakers’ front office for 19 years, including 12 in charge of basketball operations alongside Kupchak.
After an extraordinary trade for Pau Gasol propelled the Lakers to three straight NBA Finals appearances, Kupchak and Jim Buss made a series of high-profile personnel moves that didn’t pan out.
They made a pricey trade for Dwight Howard, who fled the franchise after one year, and another deal for Steve Nash, who barely played thanks to back woes. The Lakers are still feeling the effects of that deal, which will cost them their first-round pick this summer if it isn’t in the top three.
Jeanie Buss, Magic and head coach Luke Walton are leading the team’s search for a new general manager, the team said.
Johnson has never been a decision-making NBA executive, but he has been a successful businessman and investor since his playing career ended. He also briefly coached the Lakers, but dropped his ceremonial title as a team vice president last June after his frequent public criticisms of Jim Buss and former coaches. He also sold his ownership stake in 2010.
The Lakers on Tuesday also announced longtime team spokesman John Black is leaving the organization.
The Lakers return from the All-Star break on Friday at Oklahoma City. They face San Antonio at Staples Center on Sunday.
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