Magic Johnson Takes Lakers Reins Amid Front Office Shakeup - NBC Bay Area

Magic Johnson Takes Lakers Reins Amid Front Office Shakeup

The restructuring, including the dismissal of longtime general manager Mitch Kupchak, comes during the worst four-year stretch in franchise history

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    Magic Johnson Takes Lakers Reins Amid Front Office Shakeup
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    Lakers legend and NBA Hall of Famer Magic Johnson has been named president of basketball operations in a major front office restructuring for the storied franchise.

    General manager Mitch Kupchak and executive vice president of basketball operations Jim Buss, team president Jeannie Buss' brother, have been relieved of their duties, the Lakers announced Tuesday. The restructuring comes during the worst four-year stretch in franchise 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. "Effective immediately, Earvin Johnson will be in charge of all basketball operations and will report directly to me."

    Kupchak had been the 16-time NBA champion franchise's GM since 2000, when Jerry West left the club. He had been in the front office for three decades, including the last 17 as general manager -- the league's longest current stretch as front office chief. 

    Jim Buss had been in the team's front office for 19 years. 

    The team has already started a search for a new general manager, the result of which will be announced in "short order," Jeanie Buss added.

    Johnson, a beloved fan-favorite who guided the team to five league titles during his 13 NBA seasons, said he hopes to restore the franchise's mystique fter four straight losing seasons.

    "It's a dream come true to return to the Lakers as President of Basketball Operations working closely with Jeanie Buss and the Buss family," said Johnson. "Since 1979, I've been a part of the Laker Nation and I'm passionate about this organization. I will do everything I can to build a winning culture on and off the court. We have a great coach in Luke Walton and good young players. We will work tirelessly to return our Los Angeles Lakers to NBA champions." 

    The Lakers are 19-39 this season after an encouraging start under first-year head coach Walton. They finished 17-65 last season, a franchise low in the last year of Kobe Bryant's two decades with the team.

    The Lakers clinched back-to-back championships in 2009 and 2010, but then descended to the depths of the NBA -- a dramatic reversal of fortunes for one of the NBA most popular and successful franchises. 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 did not 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.

    The front officer moves come two days before the league's trade deadline. 

    This will be Johnson's first foray into a decision-making NBA executive role, 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 criticisms of Jim Buss and former coaches.

    He sold his ownership stake in 2010.

    The Lakers' recent ineptitude didn't hurt their place as Los Angeles' most beloved sports franchise and a worldwide brand, but Jeanie Buss finally tired of the apparent lack of progress. The Lakers have a talented young core with D'Angelo Russell, Julius Randle, Brandon Ingram and Jordan Clarkson, but haven't been able to translate that potential into wins despite playing an exciting style under Walton.

    The team also parted ways with Vice President of Public Relations John Black.

    The Associated Press contributed to this report.