Jeanie Buss grew up around the greatness of the Los Angeles Lakers.
When she was just a teenager, her father, the legendary Dr. Jerry Buss, purchased the Lakers from Jack Kent Cooke.
Then, just a few short months later, Dr. Buss was at the helm of a championship roster as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and rookie Magic Johnson lead the purple and gold to an NBA Finals victory over the Philadelphia 76ers.
So, for Jeanie, winning championships has been a part of her life for a long time.
Now, at 53, Jeanie is in the same role as her father once was as she heads the Lakers’ operation.
Well, on paper, anyway.
Jeanie is the Lakers’ president. This means that she has the final say on any matters involving the Lakers – the NBA rules state that each team must have a designated decision maker, and for the purple and gold, that’s Jeanie.
However, Jeanie’s day-to-day duties are focused on taking care of the team’s business operations, while her brother, Jim, and longtime Lakers general manager, Mitch Kupchak, take care of the basketball side of things.
This is the way Dr. Buss set things up long before he died in 2013, and they have stayed that way ever since.
However, Jeanie says that things could soon change if the Lakers aren’t contending within the next few years.
“I’ve been assured by our basketball operations that the team will be back in contention soon. If we are not meeting those goals, then changes have to occur,” Jeanie recently told Mark Medina of the L.A. Daily News. “I have no reason not to believe them when they tell me that’s what they can deliver. I don’t see what would be holding them back.”
This isn’t breaking news seeing as Jim Buss himself said last season that he would step down if the Lakers weren’t in the Western Conference Finals within “three to four years,” though fans will surely find it comforting that such a plan is still in place.
Still, it should be noted that Mitch and Jim have only really had one summer to try and turn things around.
In the 2014 offseason, the Lakers finally ditched the last of their pre-lockout contracts and began to court free agents.
However, it was always a long shot that the likes of LeBron James (who wanted to go home to Cleveland) and Carmelo Anthony (who likes New York and received more money by staying) would sign with the Lakers.
This summer will be a difficult one, too, seeing as there’s a good chance that most of the top free agents will stay put in their current situations.
But even if they fail to land a big name free agent this summer, that doesn’t mean all is lost.
Over the years, the Lakers have pulled off all kinds of blockbuster deals, and they have even done so since Mitch and Jim have been working together.
They landed Pau Gasol in 2008 – Mitch and Jim have been a tandem since 2005 – and even pulled off a deal for Chris Paul in 2011 before the league vetoed the trade.
And then there’s the Lakers’ up-and-coming young talent.
Next season, the Lakers will have a healthy Julius Randle, a more experienced Jordan Clarkson and, if things stay the same, they’ll also likely have a top-five pick in June’s draft, as well as a pick in the 20s thanks to the Jeremy Lin trade with the Houston Rockets.
Still, nothing’s for certain, and if the Lakers can’t figure it out within the next few years, Jeanie says she isn’t afraid to make changes.
“[If we aren’t contending] then we owe it to our shareholders, fans and partners that we have to move in a different direction to get this team back into contention,” Jeanie said, per Medina. “We made a commitment that we would operate the team the way Dr. Buss ran it.”
So, whether it’s Jim leading the Lakers back to contention or Jeanie shaking things up in the front office in a few years’ time, something’s gotta give.
I’d put my money on the Lakers’ current regime figuring it out over the next couple of seasons, but only time will tell how this thing’s really going to go.