In an attempt to bring Showtime back to Los Angeles, the Lakers relieved general manager Mitch Kupchak of his duties on Tuesday and named Magic Johnson their new President of Basketball Operations.
The 1976 ACC Player of the Year as a 6-foot-9 forward for UNC, Kupchak was in the midst of his 23rd season as the GM in Los Angeles–having amassed five NBA Championships over that span.
Johnson–the Hall-of-Famer who won five championships of his own as the Laker point guard during the 1980’s–recently returned to the organization in an adviser role earlier this month.
Although the Lakers have long been associated with winning, this year’s group currently boasts the third-worst record in the NBA, at 19-39.
Franchise cornerstone Kobe Bryant retired after last season after 20 years in Los Angeles, leaving a massive rebuilding job for new head coach Luke Walton.
Since Johnson was hired as an adviser on Feb. 2, he has openly stated his intention to play a large role in the team’s future–even going so far as to say he wanted the job then held by Jim Buss, the son of the late Lakers’ owner Jerry Buss.
With Kupchak’s firing, the decisions that were once made jointly by he and the younger Buss will likely be left up to Johnson and new GM Rob Pelinka–who previously served as Kobe Bryant’s agent.
Although he is part of an ownership group that has majority control of the MLB’s Los Angeles Dodgers–and has had plenty of success in the business world–Johnson has no prior experience in an NBA front office.
Johnson told ESPN last week in an on-air appearance that his first move, should he be given a larger role in the organization, would be to call the newly retired Bryant–who also has no coaching or front office experience– and offer him any role he wants because: “he understands winning.”