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Jeanie Buss broke down after Lakers' decided not to hire Phil Jackson

September 23, 2013|By Eric Pincus
  • Phil Jackson accepts his 2009 NBA championship ring from Jeanie Buss before the 2009-10 season opener against the Clippers at Staples Center.
Phil Jackson accepts his 2009 NBA championship ring from Jeanie Buss before… (Gary Friedman / Los Angeles…)

Jeanie Buss did not take the news well that the Lakers were hiring Mike D'Antoni to replace Mike Brown as the team's head coach last November.

"Two days after Phil [Jackson] got that phone call, I was at the gym when I started crying so hysterically that they sent me home," wrote Buss in her updated memoir "Laker Girl," written with former Times sportswriter Steve Springer.

Before D'Antoni was hired, executives Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak met with Jackson to discuss the possibility of bringing back the Hall of Fame coach.

"[Jackson] invited Jim to his house, a place my brother had never visited before," wrote Jeanie.  "I vacated the property, taking my dog for a ride so my brother, Mitch, and Phil could have their time together."

An offer wasn't made but Jackson believed it was a "great meeting," she continued.

The conversation took place on a Saturday but by Sunday night, Jackson was woken up by a phone call from Kupchak bringing the news the team had gone in another direction.

"When he hung up, I asked him what that was about, and he said, 'Mitch called to tell me they've hired D'Antoni. He said that they feel given the personnel they have that D'Antoni is a better fit. He said they know they are going to take a bit of a PR hit, but he thinks it will blow over in a month,'" wrote Buss.

It's taken the fans a lot longer than a month.  One of the last images at Staples Center after the Lakers were swept by the San Antonio Spurs in the first round was another resounding "We want Phil" chant.

"The sequence of events -- Phil almost coming back and then being told someone else was better for the job -- practically destroyed me," wrote Buss.  "It almost took away my passion for this job and this game.  It felt like I had been stabbed in the back.  It was a betrayal.  I was devastated."

Clearly there's a strain between Jeanie and Jim, at least from Jeanie's perspective.  Jerry Buss, their father, passed away in February from cancer complications.  He left his majority ownership stake of the team to his six children.

Jeanie is in charge of the team's business operations -- Jim makes the basketball decisions.

"Despite my brother's desire to open up the channels of communication between us, we still rarely if ever discuss basketball," wrote Buss.  "That should be OK because my dad was confident the franchise could be run that way.  But I want my brother to realize that I'm not the enemy."

Although Buss' behind-the-scenes account is a fascinating look at family politics, her decision to share them so publicly may not exactly come across as an olive branch.

"I hope the flirtation with Phil wasn't just a PR stunt. I still can't get my head around the whole story," wrote Buss.

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Email Eric Pincus at eric.pincus@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @EricPincus.

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