In their heyday, the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers and their myriad star players were known as “Showtime.” It’s show time once again in L.A., but not in a good way.
The Lakers just can’t seem to stay out of the spotlight, for all the wrong reasons. Their president, Magic Johnson, just up and quit 90 minutes before their last game of the season, without telling his boss. Turns out it was because acidic emails were flying around behind Johnson’s back, ones that he was accidentally cc’d on. Then it was revealed that Johnson didn’t even tell his big time recruit and team star, LeBron James, in advance — effectively ghosting him.
Now for the latest. The Lakers offered a three-year, $18 million head coaching contract to Ty Lue, a well-respected coach, favorite of James, and winner of a championship title for the Cleveland Cavaliers (with LeBron).
All good so far, except it isn’t.
The standard is to offer a five-year contract for talented coaches, and that’s not even for coaches with a championship pedigree. For example, coach Monty Williams just signed a five-year deal with the Phoenix Suns (after also passing on a reported three-year offer from the Lakers) and Luke Walton, the previous Lakers coach, was under a five-year contract when he was fired.
ESPN also reported that Lue was told to hire Jason Kidd as an assistant coach, something normally left to the head coach to decide.
Furthermore, former Laker Kurt Rambis is now surfacing as a prominent figure in making the coaching decision. Not coincidentally, Rambis’ wife Linda is a close friend of Lakers owner Jeanie Buss and is heavily involved in team affairs (the Los Angeles Times called Linda Rambis the “shadow owner”).
Let’s unpack this train wreck.
First, the penny-pinching move to offer a championship coach a three-year deal shows a distinct lack of trust and undervaluing. Are the Lakers hedging their bets? Are they trying to get a financial bargain by limiting long term commitments? Are they aware that offering two-years less than a standard deal to a winner can only be seen as an insult?
It’s a classic sign of toxicity. Value your employees, but not too much — just enough to demotivate them.
Let’s move on to the micromanaging. Great leaders hire great people, agree to an objective, and let the people they hired do their thing, unimpeded. Telling Lue who to hire as an assistant coach is none of that. There’s nothing I’ve seen as a keynoter, teacher, coach or corporate veteran that is more debilitating to a culture than micromanagement.
The lesson here is clear: Agree to an objective, then get out of the way and spend your time instead on supporting your charge to succeed in every way you can muster.
Finally, it appears that there’s a decision-making power struggle within the Lakers organization. LeBron James unquestionably had influence on the team making overtures to coach Lue. Then, Rambis rose out of nowhere as a major influence in the coaching decision.
It’s even more head-scratching given the fact that Rambis himself amassed a horrid 32-132 record as a former head coach for the Minnesota Timberwolves. That’s who just gained influence?
I’ve seen this scenario too often in toxic cultures. The management blows in the wind, listening to the last, most persuasive source of input as they hop from decision to decision. No consistency, no one knows what to expect.
In the name of great leadership and great basketball, I hope the Lakers get their act together and bring back (the good) Showtime. It’s better than showing time and time again that they’re a “what not to do” footnote for leaders.