A power forward no longer
It would be easy to say that Elgin Baylor has left the building.
But the Lakers great and NBA Hall of Famer never quite got there.
Moving Day, the Clippers’ switch to their new facility in Playa Vista, took place last month essentially without Baylor, their longtime vice president of basketball operations and general manager. He had not been on hand during the early stages of training camp and his power within the organization had greatly diminished well before then.
On Tuesday, the Clippers announced that Coach Mike Dunleavy would take on the additional duties of general manager, replacing Baylor, who had served in that capacity since 1986. Neil Olshey, the team’s director of player personnel, will be the assistant general manager, Dunleavy said.
The details surrounding Baylor’s departure were murky, and the eight-paragraph release from the team didn’t fill in many of the blanks.
It is believed the organization offered him a consultant’s position carrying his current job title. But Baylor, 74, made it clear in a brief telephone interview that the parting was less than amicable.
“There is a dispute, and on the advice of my attorney they did not want me to discuss it,” Baylor said. “That’s all I can say.”
He would not say whether he retired, resigned or was fired. Neither of Baylor’s two attorneys could be reached for comment.
Dunleavy said the Clippers approached him Tuesday afternoon and said that he was told that Baylor had resigned and the team wanted the coach to assume the GM duties.
For Dunleavy, job title aside, it won’t be a major change. Especially since he has been the point man in every key personnel decision during a tumultuous Clippers summer of massive player turnover.
“I’ve done it before, in Milwaukee,” he said of holding the dual positions. “My first job, with [the Lakers], Jerry West as GM, one of the greatest ever . . . I came in and he said, ‘We’ll never do a deal that you and I don’t agree on.’ I’ve always been involved in player decisions.”
Clippers President Andy Roeser said in a statement: “In Mike and Neil, we’re fortunate to already have talented people in place to make this transition a seamless one. Going forward, we have high expectations for our team. From a basketball standpoint, these are the people we’re counting on to make those expectations a reality.”
Baylor was named NBA executive of the year in 2006 after the Clippers made the second round of the playoffs. That was a rare bright moment on his lengthy and spotty front-office resume with the Clippers.
Reaction to the way Baylor’s Clippers tenure ended was swift and pointed, particularly from the Lakers, for whom he was an 11-time All-Star forward during a 14-year NBA career that ended early in the 1971-72 season.
“For the last 40 years, Elgin has been a part of basketball,” Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak said. “I had a really good relationship with him probably because of Jerry West. So I’m saddened by this.
“I’m surprised by the timing of it. And his timing.”
The Lakers’ Lamar Odom, who played for the Clippers his first four seasons in the league, had a similar sentiment for the man who drafted him in 1999.
“Loyal person,” he said. “He doesn’t deserve that. That’s too bad. He’s a good man.”
Injured rookie guard Eric Gordon (high ankle sprain) showed noticeable improvement, taking part in some drills at practice Tuesday, none involving lateral movement.
Tim Thomas, out Monday because of flu-like symptoms, returned to practice.
Times staff writer Broderick Turner contributed to this report.