Prior to the 2018-19 NBA season finale against the Portland Trail Blazers, Los Angeles Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson suddenly resigned during his impromptu press conference at Staples Center.
Since the Lakers were set to miss the playoffs for the sixth consecutive season, most anticipated Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka would fire head coach Luke Walton following three seasons as their first move.
While Walton was eventually fired, many wondered who would be Johnson’s replacement as Golden State Warriors president of basketball operations Bob Myers headlined a list of potential candidates. Although the Lakers have stayed quiet, the team’s coaching search provided hints along the way.
With the Lakers recently hiring head coach Frank Vogel and landing the No. 4 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, they reportedly have decided not to hire a new president of basketball operations, according to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN:
The Lakers have decided they will not hire a President of Basketball Operations to replace Magic Johnson, a team source told ESPN.
General manager Rob Pelinka will continue in his role, reporting directly to ownership. Pelinka had previously reported to Johnson
— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) May 17, 2019
As owner Jeanie Buss has remained in contact with Johnson, her current plan reportedly involves Pelinka running the front office, according to Sam Amick and Bill Oram of The Athletic:
Yet while rumblings remain that Buss might replace Johnson with an elite front office executive at some point, and with so much pressure from local and national media to conduct a comprehensive search for a new president of basketball operations who isn’t required to have deep Lakers ties, a source with knowledge of Jeanie’s plan insists that this front office is Pelinka’s to run. At least for now.
During the team’s coaching search, Pelinka and senior basketball advisor Kurt Rambis were heavily involved in the hiring process. While Pelinka shared his role has not changed at the 2019 NBA Draft Lottery, this is ultimately not a surprising decision by Buss and the Lakers.
Had the Lakers truly been interested in hiring Johnson’s replacement, that would have been the very first move of the offseason. The new president of basketball operations would have had a significant role in deciding on Pelinka’s future as well as the team’s new head coach.
If the Lakers hired Vogel and then looked for a new president of basketball operations, there would have been disconnect similar to Johnson, Pelinka, and Walton. In the end, Pelinka will report to Buss moving forward.