As an official alumnus of the Lakers “household,” Pat Riley would not qualify as merely a bystander when Earvin “Magic” Johnson plops himself down on the set of ESPN’s First Take and sends tremors all through Los Angeles by confirming he was speaking about former affiliate Rob Pelinka when he referenced the “backstabbing” that went on throughout his temporary tenure as Lakers president.
“I began listening to, ‘Magic, you are not working onerous sufficient. Magic’s not within the workplace,'” Johnson advised hosts Stephen A. Smith and Max Kellerman. “Individuals across the Lakers workplace have been telling me Rob was saying issues, and I did not like listening to these issues being mentioned behind my again.”
Riley and Magic gained 5 championships collectively beneath the possession of Jerry Buss, the daddy of present proprietor Jeanie Buss. It was the springboard of an extended and illustrious profession for Riley, who stays ceaselessly linked each to the Buss household and to Magic.
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“Stunned by his feedback? No, under no circumstances,” Riley tells ESPN on Monday afternoon. “I will let you know about Earvin — and it is what I like about him, but in addition what I’ve cautioned him about — he will communicate his thoughts. If that is how he felt, that is how he felt.
“He isn’t going to go away a dangling curveball on the market about backstabbing and whispering. He manned up as we speak. That is who Buck is. He would by no means tolerate that. He by no means has tolerated that.”
In his First Take interview, Johnson eviscerated Pelinka, the group’s basic supervisor, pointing the finger at him as a divisive drive within the entrance workplace.
“What occurred was, I wasn’t having enjoyable coming to work anymore, particularly once I’ve started working beside you, realizing you need my place,” Johnson mentioned. “And I am OK with that. As a result of that is what occurred: I advised [Pelinka] in Yr 2, ‘I am solely going to be right here three years. So, my job, Rob, is to get you prepared for this place.’
“I used to be going to assist elevate him to the president’s place. When all this was coming again to me, guys have been calling me saying, ‘You higher be careful for him.’ What was loopy was once I took the job, are you aware what number of brokers referred to as me and mentioned, ‘You higher be careful for Pelinka’?”
Riley makes it clear that whereas he respects Johnson’s proper to talk his thoughts, he would not concur with Magic’s mistrust of Pelinka, including, “I’ve by no means had an issue with Rob.”
“However this sort of s— goes on in organizations day-after-day,” Riley says. “The group will get too huge, there are too many individuals who’ve been round a very long time, and so they begin voicing their opinion about issues, and that is when the tradition begins to crack.
“Possibly Earvin’s honesty will do one thing to get [the Lakers] considering.”
Pat Riley coached Magic Johnson for 9 seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers. Walter McBride/Corbis/Getty Pictures
There have been murmurs that Jeanie Buss, whose blueprint has been to encompass herself with individuals her father knew and trusted, had reached out to Riley in an try and coax him again to the West Coast in some front-office capability. Riley shot down that notion on Monday.
“I’ve thought [about returning to the Lakers] solely from a sentimental standpoint,” Riley says. “However I used to be by no means pursued by them. No person formally contacted me. I’ve about 20 buddies wishing I might come again, however no one requested.
“They’d Magic. If you find yourself within the place that Earvin was in, once you flip over the group to someone like him, there’s just one one that can say no to you. That is your proprietor. It is the identical for me right here in Miami. If [Heat owner] Mickey Arison says no, that is it. Now, that does not imply I haven’t got energy.
“However when others discover a option to acquire affect to do that or say that, it will get somewhat dicey.”
Riley says that Johnson’s concern for the Lakers is real, and that, identical to when he was a participant, he will not ever hesitate to specific his opinion.
Riley recollects a recreation in opposition to the Seattle Supersonics whereas he was a Lakers assistant through the 1979-80 season, when, as Riley explains it, “Earvin appeared over on the bench, and the coach [Paul Westhead] had a sure participant on the court docket that neither Kareem or Earvin needed on the market.”
That participant was Spencer Haywood, a Corridor of Famer who, on the time, was fighting a horrible cocaine dependancy and would ultimately be suspended by Westhead through the 1980 playoffs. Throughout this specific regular-season recreation, the insertion of Haywood corresponded with a 20-point lead shortly evaporating right into a Four-point deficit.
“At that time,” Riley recounts, “Earvin appears to the bench, places his thumb up and gestures, ‘Get this man out of right here.'”
Johnson shocked the Lakers when he abruptly resigned on April 9 with out notifying Buss or LeBron James, whom he recruited to Los Angeles to be the centerpiece of a Lakers reclamation mission. In a tearful information convention contained in the Staples Middle, he mentioned the job was now not pleasurable.
Riley says he is identified Jeanie Buss since she was 19 years outdated and shortly listed her siblings so as.
“After I was there, it was at all times about Jerry and his children,” Riley says. “What you are seeing is all a part of the household rising into the subsequent part. If they do not really feel like anyone [from within] is able to step in, then you definitely rent somebody. However as soon as that occurs, everybody has to remain in their very own lane.”