It's a transition brewing over the last few seasons, but as ESPNLA.com's Ramona Shelburne notes, the Lakers are a whole lot closer to living fully in the Jim rather than Jerry Buss era. During an offseason filled with serious questions, starting first with selecting a coach then moving on to the makeup of the roster, Jim Buss will be a very influential figure. The Lakers say it's been this way for a while now, and ultimately Dr. Buss is still the final authority. Still, in an organizational power structure no longer occupied by Phil Jackson's considerable gravitas, it's reasonable to expect Jim Buss to assert his voice.
So what should Lakers fans expect? Can he be counted on to carry on his father's championship legacy? That's the subject of this installment of the Triangle.
Like many, I've had very little contact with Jim Buss. Nothing more than a few short conversations. I admit to a tangible level of skepticism, in part because Dr. Buss has been so absurdly successful- 10 titles, 16 Finals appearances, and only two seasons without a playoff appearance since buying the team in 1979- it would be hard for anyone to sustain going forward. A young Dr. Buss succeeding himself would have trouble meeting the standard.
There is one more issue I wish I'd addressed in the video. While by no means has he been a passive figure, rubber stamping and writing checks, Dr. Buss' history is not simply one of aggressively playing for the big score, but of hiring excellent people and ultimately deferring to their basketball acumen. It's an oft-stated pillar of his ownership philosophy, one made simpler by being "in" the game, but not "of" it, so to speak. Jim Buss, however, worked his way through the organization in a player personnel capacity (his title is Executive V.P. of Player Personnel). It's a totally different road, one filled with potholes as his role continues to grow.
For the same guy to both sign the checks- technically, Jim Buss doesn't, but it's a family business and he's family- and determine which players and coaches should be on the payroll to receive them is a remarkably tricky endeavor. The sports world is littered with guys who have tried and failed. Even accepting the idea he's grown into a keen judge of talent and roster construction- fair or not, it's not something you'll often hear- the more authority Jim Buss has inside the organization as the captain of the ship (I refuse to go with "driver of the bus...") the more he ought to defer to the basketball people employed by the Lakers to make basketball decisions.
Walls can be good things.
The best owners are actively engaged, but ultimately understand how to lean on the judgment of others. Whether it's today, tomorrow, or three years from now, at the point when Jim Buss is truly the ultimate authority, it's the approach he needs to take.
It will still be fine for him to be a smart guy in the room. The minute he decides he's the smartest, the Lakers are in trouble.