Jerry Buss defends Jim Buss
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Los Angeles Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss said he was hurt and confused by criticism of his son, and Lakers executive, Jim Buss' handling of the hiring of new coach Mike Brown.
"I could not understand that," the elder Buss said Tuesday after Brown was introduced as the team's new head coach. "Where everything came from was beyond me.
"Jim and I and [GM] Mitch Kupchak made that decision jointly. We were all at every meeting from the beginning to the end, and suddenly it was on Jim's shoulders. Mitch didn't get accused, I didn't get accused, where that all came from I have no idea, nor does he.
"I'm a father and anybody criticizes any of my children, it's hard for me to take. But on the other hand, we've been at this as a family for a long time and we know that this is going to happen. It's part of the game."
Jim Buss had come under intense scrutiny by some fans and local columnists for his handling of the coaching search.
In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, he admitted that he wished he had involved or reached out to Lakers star Kobe Bryant before word of the hire began to leak out last week.
"Looking back on it, we should have contacted Kobe," Jim Buss told the Times Saturday night. "Kobe said it was management's job to pick a coach. He just said, 'Defense first.' That's what we were doing, but we should have reached out to him."
Brown said Tuesday that he has since met personally with Bryant and had several long conversations with him. Bryant did not attend Brown's press conference. A team spokesman said that he had previously scheduled a vacation.
Dr. Buss, however, did make a rare public appearance at Brown's press conference. He sat in the front row along with his sons Jim, Joey and Jesse, all of whom are playing a larger role in the organization as the 77-year-old patriarch of the Lakers retreats further into the background each year.
Afterwards, Jim, Jesse and Joey left without speaking to reporters, while Dr. Buss addressed a large group for about 10 minutes.
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Asked what he liked about Brown during the interview process, Buss was coy as always.
"A lot of the intimate details, I think I better let him talk to the team and all of you before I tell you all the secrets," Buss said. "But he has a lot of plans and I liked them.
"I liked his Xs and Os and his vision for our future. Very few people understand that our job is to try to remain on top forever. He likes that philosophy and I like that.
"When we started the process I did not think he would be the man. I just didn't choose anyone person. But then when he started talking to us and saying how he would handle this team, he was very prepared. He had page after page of each individual player. He knew that roster from top to bottom.
"He was really prepared, very impressive."
As for how impressive he still finds the Lakers roster after their unseasonably early exit from the playoffs, Buss acknowledged that he was disappointed in the team's performance.
"I really felt at the beginning of the year that we had more accomplished personnel than we had ever had," he said. "I thought our bench was a lot stronger and things didn't work out that way. Sometimes things jell, sometimes they don't. I think what I didn't take into account is how difficult it is to go to the Finals four years in a row. ... I think that took a toll."
Asked whether he still thinks the team, as currently constructed, can rebound and recover by next season now that it has a longer offseason to rest, Buss said simply, "We certainly have the core of people that can win a championship."
Ramona Shelburne is a columnist and reporter for ESPNLosAngeles.com.