Jeanie Buss believes Luke Walton can be the Lakers coach for 10-15 years, ‘as long as we don’t kill him’

Before she brought Magic Johnson in the fold, Jeanie Buss wanted to make sure they were on the same page about one topic in particular:

Luke Walton.

“What was important to me was how he felt about our coach, Luke Walton,” Buss said during a podcast on Forbes Sports Money. “Luke Walton is, he is somebody that I believe can be our coach for the next 10 or 15 years, as long as we don’t kill him.”

It’s well documented that the seeds of Johnson’s return to the Lakers were sown in January when he and Buss had dinner before a game. Johnson had initially reached out to Buss after she announced that she and Knicks president Phil Jackson had broken off their engagement.


As they talked, the subject of the Lakers recent woes arose and Johnson offered his help. Buss brought him on as an advisor and was disappointed when all but the basketball department of the organization asked for his help.

On Feb. 21, Buss removed her brother, Jim Buss, as the Lakers executive vice president of basketball operations, and fired long-time general manager Mitch Kupchak. Johnson became the team’s president of basketball operations.

But during that first conversation, she heard what she wanted to hear from Johnson about her coach.

“When I asked him one of my first questions that night at dinner: ‘What do you think about the team?’” Buss said on the podcast, “he said he would build the team around Luke Walton.”

Walton, who turned 37 on Tuesday, is the league’s youngest head coach. He is coming to the end of his first year in the role. What Buss wants to see is a team that fits his vision. She referenced the San Antonio Spurs as a model for that.

“I saw from my experience with Phil Jackson, if you can build a foundation of players who know the system you want to play, the style you want to play, then you really have [something],” Buss said. “The Spurs have done it the best where they have a core group of players and they just kind of switch pieces as they need to. … I believe that if we build with Luke in mind that he’s somebody that can be around a long time.”

Follow Tania Ganguli on Twitter @taniaganguli