SANTA MONICA, Calif. -- Los Angeles Lakers co-owner Jeanie Buss finally broke her silence about the state of the organization while walking the red carpet before the NBA Awards in Santa Monica.
In her first interview since Magic Johnson stepped down as the team president, Buss said his decision caught her off guard, but that their relationship will "be fine." She also expressed support for embattled general manager Rob Pelinka.
"I've always had confidence in Rob, whatever the speculation is out there," Buss said. "We don't need outside media to validate the things that we do. I'm very happy and I think we're on the right path."
Members of the media were not the only ones criticizing Pelinka.
Johnson resigned on April 9, the date of the Lakers' final game this past season. When he did it, Johnson alluded to "backstabbing and whispering" as part of why he was no longer happy doing the job. Johnson later conducted interviews on the same day the Lakers introduced new head coach Frank Vogel, and he identified Pelinka as the source of the backstabbing and whispering.
Pelinka has said Johnson's accusations weren't true. In Johnson's absence, he was elevated to being the Lakers' lead basketball executive.
"I have 100% confidence in him in running his basketball operations," Buss said. "He's brought us a great new head coach in Frank Vogel, whose teams have had a lot of success in the playoffs and who have played consistently ranking high in defense, which means not only does he emphasize defense but the players buy into his defensive schemes."
Johnson resigned without telling Buss or anyone else in the organization. It was a move that rattled LeBron James and Buss alike.
"As surprising as it was, it kind of reminded me of back in 1981 when he asked to be traded after winning a championship with the Lakers because he wasn't happy with the way the offense had changed," Buss said. "That led us to getting Pat Riley as our head coach. He's got good instincts. He's gotta stay true to who he is and do what's right for him. I wish I would've had a little bit more notice but I think we're gonna be just fine."
Johnson also said that he'd be interested in buying the Lakers, a comment that caused some to wonder if he was questioning Buss' stewardship.