Wednesday afternoon, Dr. Jerry Buss met with the media at the Bicycle Casino -- it's easy to assume the jokes are writing themselves, but he was actually there for a poker tourney to benefit the Lakers Youth Foundation -- and talked about his recent Hall of Fame induction, among other topics. ESPNLA.com's Dave McMenamin not only wrote a great column about the event, but was kind enough to transcribe and pass long to us copy that didn't make his published draft. That's why Dave's our man, despite a stunning lack of knowledge about What's Happening!!
After giving McMenamin's piece a read, check out his thoughts below on several matters, including this summer's acquisitions, LeDecision and Lakers fans. Plus, a fantastically phrased answer when asked who ultimately calls the shots in El Segundo.
On what it’s been like since being inducted to the Hall of Fame last Friday:
"It settled in but I’m still on a very big high right now. I’m wearing my [Hall of Fame] ring and the whole mysterious event continues to monopolize my thoughts."
On what he meant when he said “life is good, life is sweet” during his speech:
"What I meant was, I’ve been very fortunate in being surrounded by Hall of Fame people and their expertise led me obviously to accept the honor of induction into the Hall of Fame. It was also intended to say some things about my family because, especially I think as you get older, family means more and more to you and you realize that all your accomplishments and all your efforts is something that you basically do for them. To do it successfully makes you very happy, it makes life sweet and it makes life fun."
On his favorite moments during the HOF weekend:
"A lot of moments, not a single one. It’s hard to believe that it was 31 years ago when Jerry West and Bill Sharman came into my office for the first time. Seeing Jerry West there just started the whole process over again and made the little speech that I gave very, very real to me because the people that I was talking about were sitting right there in front of me or standing behind me, one or the other. So I guess those moments were especially poignant."
On the offseason additions:
"I’m very happy. I think Matt Barnes was a good addition. He’s a very tough, feisty type of guy and [Ron] Artest helped a lot and Matt Barnes will help some more. I think we needed a steady presence at guard, someone who’s had experience and can play and so [Steve] Blake fills that role quite nicely. The remaining piece was to get a center [in Theo Ratliff] that had some experience, hopefully a shot blocker, someone who could play an undetermined amount of minutes depending on Andrew Bynum’s health."
On the Lakers being a model of success for other pro sports franchises to aspire to:
"I hope that’s true. I like to think that’s true. We’ve had a lot of success. I don’t think that modesty would prevent me from saying that being in the Finals 16 times in 31 years is absolutely unheard of. As someone pointed out to me, that means you would have gone to the Super Bowl every other year or the World Series every other year. It’s kind of unheard of. In our case, we’ve been very, very lucky. Very fortunate. You know, when you get people like Magic Johnson and follow up with a Kobe Bryant, it’s perhaps easier to do than in other sports. But, I think most of the players appreciate playing for the Lakers and when that word gets around, I think that’s what the other franchises try to emulate. They would like to say everybody wants to play for us. That’s the object."
On if he ever worried about Phil Jackson deciding to not come back to coach next season:
"It wasn’t until somewhere during the season and I had a talk with him and I was concerned some of the health issues might prevent him from coaching this year, but obviously I was relieved, as he was, when he got a clean bill of health and decided to coach this year."
On whether or not Jackson is the most important individual involved with the team:
"Coaches are funny. I don’t know anybody who can really judge coaches except by who wins and who loses and if you do it that way, let’s face it, he is very, very important."
On whether he has started to think of life with the Lakers after Jackson leaves:
"I’m not really one of those [doomsayers] that looks forward to big problems."
On whether he watched “The Decision:"
"I had kind of decided I wouldn’t, but I did. Like everyone else, I was curious. So I did watch it, yes."
On his thoughts after watching “The Decision:"
"[It was] mixed emotions. My feeling was that he let down a lot of people and it seemed kind of sad. On the other hand, suddenly there’s this juggernaut out there that we have a chance to play against and that excites me, that really excites me because, quite honestly, I think we can beat them and I’m looking forward to playing them. Some of it was kind of excitement saying, ‘Oh boy, here’s a team that everybody put together as our next big opponent,’ but still I think Boston is pretty good and I think they’ve strengthened themselves by adding a couple centers. Orlando is still good and excellently coached. So I don’t think it’s automatic that Miami will be our biggest opponent come the end, but on the other hand, I must admit they have the world’s attention and that means we’re going to be on center stage when we get a chance to play them."
On the charity poker tournament he was participating in:
"For a very long time, we have raised money for charity. The Laker organization [gets] called upon by a great number of charities to help them out and we try to accommodate as many as we can but we always look for new opportunities to do things to raise some money and poker being as popular as it is right now seemed to lend itself to raising some money for charity. I hope that a lot of people will show up, I hope that we raise a lot of money and I’m sure my daughter Janie will dispose of it correctly and appropriately."
On how often he plays poker:
"When I have time, I probably play three or for times a week, but there are times when I get busy and so I miss two weeks and so it’s not a steady type of thing. Probably I would play maybe six times on the month on average."
On the Lakers’ key to success in Los Angeles:
"I think if you give back to the community, the community is going to give back to you. I think a great deal of our success has to do with the attitude of the fans towards the players. I mean, if you play for the Lakers and you walk down the street, everybody is very happy with you. There are other franchises and other players where you walk down the street and kind of avoid looking at people."
On L.A. sports fans:
"I think the fans of Los Angeles are, as I have said in the past, the most knowledgeable. I always hear this stuff about the East [coast]. Maybe we ought to have a test or something because I think the fans out here are very knowledgeable and they really appreciate all of the fine basketball. Perhaps it wasn’t that way 40 years ago, but it is that way today. These are very knowledgeable fans. A lot of our season ticket holders have been there 25, 30, 35 years. It’s amazing how many people have stayed with this and it would be foolish to think that they did not learn something."
On the Lakers making the playoffs 29 times in the 31 years since he bought the team:
"We’ve burped twice in the 31 years."
On looking back on the success he’s had with the Lakers:
"I couldn’t ever imagine that, but right from the beginning when I saw Magic Johnson play, I thought he was going to be very special and when I say ‘special,’ I’m not going to answer the question of whether he’s the best player in the world, but I will say this: I think he’s the best team player that ever existed. So, saying that, I always felt we were going to have a great team, but no one could imagine this type of thing. This is beyond belief for me. The whole game now is to see how long we can keep it going."
On spending money:
"We’ve always written the checks. I don’t think we’ve ever made a move specifically for money. We’ve always tried to keep the public trust, so to speak. If you’re willing to pay the big dollars for your tickets, we’re willing to turn those dollars over to the talent."
On his summer vacation plans:
"In a couple of days I’m on my way to Alaska and when I return, I’m going to go to London and Barcelona and combine watching the Lakers with some vacation time in both places. It will be fun. I’m just going to take a cruise [in Alaska]. I want to see the glaciers. It’s something I always wanted to do, never got around to and it just is a good opportunity right now to do it, so I’m going to try it."
On how his children run the team nowadays:
"I still talk to my son, Jimmy, at least twice a day. Some of those phone calls are as long as an hour and those phone calls, largely, the large portion of the content is basketball -- what we should do, what we’re doing. So I think I’m pretty active, but I would say in terms of the decision, I would say 80 percent of it goes with Jim and I throw in my two cents here and there. But, pretty much, I’m on the listening end of a lot of things.
"For business purposes, I’m totally out of it. Jeanie operates the whole thing, just 100 percent. I still have my finger in with Jim, but not with Jeanie. Once in a great while I’ll talk business with her."
On having the final say when it comes to Lakers decisions:
"They still have to kiss the ring."
Again, thanks to Dave for the help.