With the Lakers opening the season slowly (1-6), partial owner Joey Buss is leaning on a number of important lessons taught to him by his late father Jerry Buss.
“My father instilled patience in me,” said Joey Buss to The Times. “That was a great take away from him. Others were a positive attitude and inclusiveness. Those three aspects hold true to me.”
Buss is one of the six siblings who collectively own a majority stake of the Lakers.
“I’m in charge of all things D-Fenders,” said Buss, president and chief executive officer of the Lakers’ NBA Development League affiliate. “From ticket sales, to helping out with the draft ... [I] connect both business and basketball, and make decisions that reflect both priorities.”
Buss, 30, also has an important role with the Lakers.
“I serve as an alternate governor on the Board of Governors,” he said. “I’ve been doing that over six years now.”
His sister Jeanie Buss is the Lakers’ president and governor.
The team’s patriarch passed away in February 2013, to cancer complications.
“Fortunately my father was very organized for us,” said Joey. “He did a lot of the estate planning. He set up everything up in such a way that it was very easy for us to pick up and go.”
Jeanie oversees all business operations, and represents the team as owner in her role as governor, the team’s highest position.
Jerry Buss put Jim Buss in charge of basketball decisions, as executive vice president of basketball operations.
Jesse, the youngest Buss sibling, works on the basketball side as well, as director of scouting.
Johnny Buss, the team’s executive vice president of corporate development, and Janie Buss Drexel, who runs the Lakers Youth Foundation, are less involved in the day-to-day operations of the team.
Together the six make up the Buss Family Trusts, the team’s listed majority owner.
“Individually we all have our roles,” said Joey. “We do have meetings to go over owner issues and organization issues. At those meetings our opinions are expressed as a group. Then we hash things out.”
The family is trusting Jim, along with General Manager Mitch Kupchak, to bring the team back to contention in the competitive Western Conference.
“Jim’s empowered to make basketball decisions, with Mitch,” said Buss. “He’s assured all of us, including Jeanie, they don’t need any help. They’ve got it covered. We’re just in a position to support and trust.”
The process hasn’t always been seamless, a rift developed when Jeanie’s fiancé Phil Jackson was passed over as head coach, in favor of Mike D’Antoni.
The decision was made in November 2012. Jackson has since moved to New York as president of the Knicks.
D’Antoni is gone as well. In July, the team brought back former Showtime Lakers guard Byron Scott to coach -- a move Jim and Jeanie fully endorsed.
“With any new transition, you’re going to [get better] the longer that you do it,” said Joey Buss. “Now that things are playing out a little, I hope that the experience with the new system continues to [improve] as we go.”
In an equal partnership among siblings, Jeanie’s role is a little more equal than the others, as is Jim’s to a degree.
“We’re all part owners of the team, but Jeanie and Jim are the empowered ones,” said Joey. “Jeanie really is the empowered one; Jimmy is on the basketball operations side.”
In April, Jim vowed to The Times he would step down from overseeing the team’s player personnel “if this doesn’t work in three to four years, if we’re not back on the top -- and the definition of top means contending for the Western Conference, contending for a championship.”
Like his brother Jim, Joey is preaching patience.
“Starting off the way we’ve had has been challenging, but I still think we need to look at the positives,” he said. “I still think we need to look and wait a little bit here and let Byron coach these guys a little bit, see how things play out. Let Nick Young come back from [his thumb] injury, hope the best for Julius [Randle’s] recovery [from a broken leg] and look on the bright side which is Kobe [Bryant] is healthy and he’s well on his way back to being Kobe [after knee and Achilles injuries].
Along with his siblings, Joey learned how to play poker from his father, who in his later years became a well-regarded player on the poker circuit.
“I loved playing with him. He taught us the game, and pai gow and blackjack,” said Buss. “All those table games require some level of patience. I think at the same time, you have to make sure that you’re having fun.”
Buss has also learned equanimity as a new father.
“I know all about patience now because my two sons are brand new to me,” said Buss. “A 4-month-old and a 2-year-old really test your patience.”
As part-owner and alternative governor, along with his role as president of the D-Fenders, Buss applies what he’s learned as both a father and a son in his work -- not necessarily an easy task with the Lakers off to their worst start in 57 years.
“I think I’ve got a balanced approach to everything I do, it’s important to maintain that,” he said. “We need to let things play out a little bit.
“I support Byron. I support the family, and I support everybody in this organization.”