While everyone has sat around with baited breath to hear what Kobe Bryant had to say about the Lakers hiring Mike Brown to be their new head coach, No. 24 himself has kept quiet. That has led to speculation that Kobe wasn’t too happy about his friend and former teammate Brian Shaw being passed over to replace Phil Jackson. Turns out, that may only be part of the story.
Mark Heisler of the Los Angeles Times reports that Bryant’s silence isn’t about Mike Brown and that the coach and player have actually had two productive meetings and seem to be getting along well. Instead, Kobe’s silence is a message toward Lakers’ V.P. of Player Personnel Jim Buss – who also happens to be the owner’s son – for not even consulting him on the coaching search. Yet, judging from Heisler’s description, that would be par for the course with Buss.
However, as mild-mannered as Brown comes off before microphones, one-on-one his charm and intensity jump out.
Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert, who hired him in 2005, said Brown’s interview was the best he had ever seen.
Brown has since blown away Jim Buss and Kobe Bryant, pretty much covering the spectrum.
Jim Buss, on the other hand, hasn’t had two one-on-one meetings with Bryant since the hire, or ever.
That’s a far cry from the Showtime Lakers of the 1980’s where the elder Buss made sure to get close to his best players, even if it pissed off some of the veterans. It’s not hard to imagine that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was remembering the then-mind boggling 25-year, $25 million contract offered to Magic Johnson in 1981 during his recent rants about a lack of respect from the organization.
But that’s something that Jim Buss either hasn’t learned or doesn’t subscribe to. Neither of which do much to enhance the reputation of a man who doesn’t have much of one right now. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports referred to Jim Buss as “the insecure and largely incapable son of an iconic owner” and suggested that his younger sister, Jeanie, was much more suited to run the team.
Perhaps, Jim Buss’ fear is that by asking Kobe for his opinion, he runs the risk of letting his star player take over the organization. Which means he hasn’t been paying attention to how his father has run the franchise since 1979. Apart from Magic Johnson pushing Paul Westhead out of the head coach’s seat in favor of Pat Riley, Jerry Buss has not kowtowed to his stars. The team eventually traded Shaq after his repeated and very public contract demands. They essentially ignored a frustrated and petulant Bryant who first demanded that he be traded before shifting his desires to having a young, underperforming Andrew Bynum shipped out.
So the idea that suddenly Bryant would be able to comandeer the franchise in Los Angeles the way LeBron James did in Cleveland (if indeed that is what Jim Buss is thinking) is both laughable and says a lot about his own insecurity. There are too many prominent people around the organization to allow that to happen. In the meantime, Buss will want to try and make nice with Bryant. Kobe may not have final say in front office dealings, but with more than a quarter of your payroll tied up in him, it’s best to at least know where his head’s at.