While most experienced executives with a lifelong knowledge of professional basketball and its operations doubt the hiring of Magic Johnson as the Los Angeles Lakers President of Basketball Operations, his former coach Pat Riley doesn’t.
The longtime coach turned top-of-the-box franchise executive has his utmost confidence placed in him.
“Welcome to the new seat, whichever seat you just got to sit down in, and to an immediate reaction on both sides of the fence,” Riley told Harvey Araton of The Vertical. “With me, it wasn’t as public. There was no internet for it to get picked up on but I heard it within the coaching profession: ‘He didn’t coach in high school, didn’t coach in college, wasn’t prepared. How could he get the most prestigious job in the NBA?’”
Johnson’s appointment to the position comes with a lot of red flags, as most see it as a way to give the team a facelift in terms of him being associated with the “Showtime” Lakers and the years of winning they did. The NBA has changed much since the 80s and is now a vastly different business than it was 30 years ago.
Riley was in the same position at some point in his career and knows what it’s like to flourish while being a relative outsider to the ins and outs of the business.
“So why shouldn’t Earvin get an opportunity?” Riley said. “(He is) the smartest player I ever coached.”
“Earvin is a guy who has been a prolific businessman, with his cinemas, Starbucks and other things,” he said. “He’s gone into companies and changed management, changed the culture. He’s charismatic, gets up in front of people and puts an immediate face on an organization.”
The biggest concern with the business mogul is the importance of his other assets along with holding a job of supreme importance with the Lakers.
“To me, it’s a no-brainer that Earvin was given that position to capture the attention of the people in L.A. and to try to recapture that sense of continuity,” Riley said.