(This column was written
By Shelly Saltman
My late father used to say, "Sheldon, the only thing you can start on a shoe string is a knot!" Dad was right to an extent, because many of us have done all right when we started with meager beginnings. In fact, in order to get a nickel for a Hershey's chocolate bar, we had to find some empty Coca-Cola bottles, which we turned in to the corner variety store for two cents each, and when we had five bottles, Earle and I each had our own Hershey bar.
I often thought in those days, wouldn't it be nice if I owned a candy store then I could share with all my buddies. However, I would have made sure that I listened to the adults around me so that I didn't eat too much and get an upset stomach, or a big head. That would have been easy to do.
In sports as in business, many scions have inherited the mantle of leadership and in essence, their own candy store, or for that matter their own candy factory. Hell, look at Donald Trump! His dad kick-started him with millions that gave him the luxury to fail time and again and still make people believe he is a great businessman. Ask the numerous investors who through his multitude of bankruptcies, he left high and dry.
One of the great areas of legacy (father to son) is sports. Many have been worthy of assuming the mantle ... immediately names like Rooney, O'Malley and Mara come to mind. Still there are many more who must be watched carefully and judged by their actions.
In the case of the aforementioned three, they had their predecessors to lean on and respected their experience. None of them flaunted their position. They respected those who helped to make the franchise handed to them worthwhile. Now, we get to young Jimmy Buss. His dad has turned the keys to the great Candy Store known as the Los Angeles Lakers over to his control.
Among the things he has inherited is not only a great brain trust in two proven champion team developers, Jerry West and Mitch Kupchak, as well as one of pro basketball's all-time great players in Kobe Bryant. Not a bad trifecta!.
He also inherited the immediate need to replace one of the game's greatest coaches. Not a bad trifecta!
With this in mind, you would expect the young crown prince to call upon all three to aid in his decisions. However, insiders have told me that this was not the case. Whether he consulted his dad, or not, I do not know. However, this I do know. In all decisions basketball, his dad always deferred to the minds he respected.
Hell, when Jerry West said I do not want to coach and recommended his old teammate Pat Riley for his first coaching job, despite his doubts, the senior Buss did not stand in the way of West's recommendation. Jerry Buss was smart enough to realize that Jerry West, Mr. Basketball, is the NBA Logo for a reason.
So Pat, who at the time was the legendary Chick Hearn's broadcasting color commentator, became coach of the Lakers. Unlike most fans, I knew Pat would be something special. From a personal perspective and my time working as a Laker executive, I knew Pat's dedication to the game and the team. At the time I was there ('71-'72). Pat was the sixth man. When he entered the game he was always an electrifying force.
He had a drive and a hunger like no other member of the team. Not only would he play "21", or "Horse" with any of us who were around on none-game days, but he would be out constantly speaking at Boys Clubs, Rotaries, or anywhere the team needed him on a consistent basis. The only player to do so! He was also constantly asking Coach Bill Sharman why he made the moves he did. That was the season the Lakers won 33 straight and 69 for the season.
Jim Buss in searching for the new coach went on his own naming Mike Brown as head coach. Brown may prove to be just the right remedy, but until now, his only achievement was that he was the Cleveland Cavalier coach who had LeBron James.
Jimmy did not consult any of the three before making the move. In fact, in making the decision the way he did it, he might have torn down the house that Jerry, Mitch and his father built.
In addition, he might have alienated his foremost asset and franchise player Kobe Bryant. It's not unusual for disgruntled stars to ask for a trade when they are unhappy.
Jim Buss is out to prove this is his team and he will take no prisoners. Jimmy Buss himself has no credentials.
Since the coaching decision, Jerry West is no longer affiliated with the team. He has left and taken a position as executive consultant to Peter Guber and the other new owners of the
...And I am wondering, can history repeat? Jerry West built the nucleus for the Memphis Grizzlies team success from its inception. He also gave the Lakers an unknown coach that he plucked out of the broadcast booth. In his first move, he has tapped Mark Jackson, a long-time NBA player and ESPN analyst with no coaching experience, to leave the broadcast booth and become the Warriors new head coach.
It'll be interesting in the Western Conference to carefully watch the Lakers and the Warriors. Who will show more progress? Wanna bet?