SBD/February 20, 2013/Franchises

Lakers GM Kupchak Provides Clarity On Status Of Team Front Office

Kupchak says he expects an adjustment period after Jerry Buss' death
Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak yesterday "provided immediate clarity" on how late Lakers Owner Jerry Buss' passing "will affect the ownership structure," according to Mark Medina of the L.A. DAILY NEWS. Exec VP/Player Personnel Jim Buss "will remain" in the title he has "had in eight of his 15 years with the organization." Exec VP/Business Operations Jeanie Buss also will "keep her title ... a role she's had for the past 14 seasons." But there is "one significant change on who's in charge." Kupchak said, "I report to Jimmy Buss" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 2/20). Lakers G Kobe Bryant said that he "is 'very confident' the Lakers can maintain the same success" headed by Jim and Jeanie Buss. Bryant: "It's like following the greatest owner in sports. To match that or equal that is an impossible task. But I think, in their own way, they'll have success" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 2/20). In California, Jeff Miller writes the Lakers are a franchise "facing an uncertain future." The health of the relationship between Jim and Jeanie, "never mind its strength, has been in question for months." Moving forward, that "strain could affect everything from the top of the front office to the end of the bench." Kupchak yesterday said, "We'll see. There will be an adjustment period, but I don't anticipate there being a problem" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 2/20).

TAKING ON NEW RESPONSIBILITIES: In L.A., David Wharton writes Lakers fans see Jim and Jeanie in control and "wonder if the kids can uphold a winning legacy." Jeanie already has "won respect with her intelligence and candor, but has previously focused on the business side of the franchise." Will she "exert more influence on basketball matters?" Jim has been a "constant lightning rod for criticism," and there remains questions about "what kind of leader" he will be. There is "no guarantee of success for an heir ascending to the throne, but there might be a few important checkpoints." No one can "deny that Jim and Jeanie have paid their dues, both working within the organization for more than a decade." But "adhering to an established script is only part of the deal, especially when the new owners follow a legend" (L.A. TIMES, 2/20). With Jim Buss running the basketball side of things, CBS Sports Network's Jim Rome said Lakers fans "better hope that he doesn’t run it right into the ground." Rome: "Based on what he’s done since taking over, there’s really no reason to think that he won’t” ("Rome," CBS Sports Network, 2/19). 

FINDING THEIR VOICE: In L.A., Bill Plaschke writes Jerry Buss' presence "was a good feeling for everyone, and the fact that he's gone now has instantly become the most frightening development of the modern Lakers era." He was the "Lakers' voice," and it is uncertain who will fill that void. Attention has "already been focused to the potential front-office mess in his wake." Where the Lakers were "once one kingdom led by a single benevolent leader, there are now two territories run by potentially feuding siblings." There will be "no problem if Jerry Buss left a clear succession plan that would delineate lines of power and allow the family to operate the team without constant controversy." But, until "then, there exists only a framework that doesn't seem workable." The "one-voice culture needs to continue." And, it is "clear, that voice needs to belong to Jeanie Buss." This is "not another rip job of Jimmy, a basketball novice." But Jim has "been around the team only for several years, and his relative inexperience is a poor complement to his stubbornness, which has led to several bad decisions." Plaschke: "This is, instead, about the coronation of Jeanie" (L.A. TIMES, 2/20).

BIG SHOES TO FILL: SI.com's Ian Thomsen wrote Jerry Buss was the "most important owner in the modern era of professional sports." Buss' leadership of the Lakers "set standards that exist to this day, and he did so in two bookending ways." Buss "demanded that his stars be held accountable for the team's results." He "defined the standards for the modern star," and he "understood how to promote them while encouraging their individuality." It is "not going to be easy for his family to uphold that dual standard." It requires a "kind of ruthless wisdom that Jim Buss ... has not had enough time to fulfill" (SI.com, 2/19). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Jeremy Gordon wrote when Buss died Monday "there was a real sense that the NBA had lost a singular figure, one who helped shepherd the league through multiple incarnations and era toward the product it is today" (WSJ.com, 2/19). FORBES' Kurt Badenhausen wrote under the header, "Lakers' Jerry Buss Leaves Legacy As The NBA's Greatest Owner" (FORBES.com, 2/18).

BEST OF THE BEST? The Tribune Co. discussed who the best owner in professional sports is. The L.A. Times' Ben Bolch nominated Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban, as he "pampers his players, speaks his mind and is always looking for ways to improve and innovate." The Hartford Courant's Jeff Otterbein picked Patriots Owner Robert Kraft, as "year in and year out, the Patriots are a playoff team, so the fans get a winner." They also "get an experience when they go" to Gillette Stadium. Otterbein: "The Patriots, for so long so inept, are now an NFL brand, and Kraft has been the owner behind that." The Allentown Morning Call's Jeff Schuler picked Steelers Owner the Rooney family, as it is "tough to find anyone in Pittsburgh who complains about the management of the franchise on or off the field" (LATIMES.com, 2/19).
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