The most exceptional thing the Lakers can do now: Hire an outsider


Magic Johnson's impromptu news conference before the Los Angeles Lakers' final game of the season Tuesday was another fitting event for an organization consumed with its own narrative. The broadest smile in basketball was stepping down from his position as team president because the job was no fun. Millions of fans would list "running my favorite team" as their dream gig, but Magic's general appraisal of the role is correct. Serving as the senior basketball executive for an NBA team is drudgery.
For every LeBron James recruitment, there are a dozen uninspiring tasks, from humdrum transactions to the building of systems in a front office. You can't celebrate the success of a transcendent talent in the sport you love with so much as a tweet without violating some arcane statute of the collective bargaining agreement. When Serena Williams calls, you're reduced to telling her, "Hold on, I've got the NBA's general counsel on the line." Then there's the sheer volume of information management, personnel management -- you even have to manage your general manager. In the end, Magic logically reasoned that he'd rather be a mogul than a hostage.
He was so overwhelmed at the prospect of breaking the news to owner Jeanie Buss, that he decided to forgo a one-on-one conversation altogether and instead emote to the assembled media at Staples Center. Buss and the rest of the Lakers' principles learned Johnson resigned when everyone else did. Johnson's choked-up farewell address, in which he said he far preferred being a big brother, was further testimony that family shouldn't always work together. If an employee is so paralyzed by torment at the thought of compromising a professional relationship with a personal choice, chances are he was hired for the wrong reasons at the outset.
Though it wasn't the most dignified departure, Johnson's resignation presents Buss with an opportunity to correct her franchise's worst instincts: its lazy fixation on legacy in an era when expertise wins.
Before she assembles a list of potential replacements, Buss needs to audit her franchise, which has lost more games than any other NBA team over the past six seasons. She should catalogue its recent successes and failures, and determine its near and long-term goals. But then it's time to look outside: identify a handful of rival NBA organizations she admires, and find out how they go about their business.