You can never leave the Hotel California - Off-Ramp for May 17, 2014

Jeanie Buss on Donald Sterling, the Lakers, love and basketball

Jeanie Buss

Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Jeanie Buss followed her father into the sports management business at 19. She says this past season was "a disappointing year."

The basketball season ended this week in Southern California. The dramatic run by the Clippers through a gantlet of controversy and the team's playoff opponents finished Thursday night, with a 104-98 loss to the Thunder

NBA fans now look to next season and what they'd like to see change.

RELATED: LA NAACP vows to move beyond Sterling; Garcetti, Sharpton pledge support

Jeanie Buss, the president and part owner of the Los Angeles Lakers, is going through uncharted territory. Last month, the team wrapped up the worst season since the franchise was founded in 1947.

Kobe Bryant missed almost the entire season. Then this month, the NBA condemned L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling after a recording of racist comments made by Sterling went public; he's currently fighting to keep control of the Clippers.

Jeanie Buss agreed to talk with KPCC's Patt Morrison on Off-Ramp about the Clippers and Sterling.

Interview Highlights:

On the scandal involving Donald Sterling, owner of the L.A. Clippers:

"Whoever was speaking on those tapes made me ill. And it was offensive. And I've never heard him speak like that in person. I wouldn't have been able to tolerate being around him if he spoke like that in front of me."

On how Buss and Jackson carry on a relationship while managing rival teams:

"We have an understanding that he can't talk about the Lakers, and I can't talk about the Knicks. He could talk about the Lakers from when he was the coach and his experience, but new decisions that are made, he's not allowed to criticize or second guess. And the same thing with me about decisions that he's making. So it's kind of off the table. I wish him the best; I hope our teams play in the playoffs, because that means we're both in the finals. Of course, I want the Lakers to win."

On the Lakers' past season:

"To us, it already is next season, because we're not in the playoffs. So what we're looking forward to is on May 20, the NBA [draft] lottery will be held. What's funny is, a lot of people will say, 'Well, maybe you'll find the next Kobe Bryant.' And I say, 'We already have Kobe Bryant. We don't need to find the next one!' Kobe's still playing.

"From the players to the front office to the fans to our partners, ... it was a disappointing year. But I have to say that the players that we had on our team, there were some bright spots. There were some big wins over the Clippers and Houston. No matter how difficult it was to be near the bottom of the standings, I still think that the fans that went to the games and watched saw a group of a guys working really hard. And, hopefully, they had a good time as well."

On Kobe Bryant's return

"When you look at what happened this season, you have to go back to the previous season, because Kobe Bryant went down with an Achilles injury just before we started the playoffs then. When it happened, I had people advise me that it's going to take 12 months for him to get back. And, of course, in Kobe time, he came back in December of this season.
"He played great for six games, but then he broke his knee and was out for the rest of the season. People that know Kobe Bryant or are fans of Kobe Bryant know his will is like no other player I've ever seen. And I believe that he's going to — after missing a lot of basketball this year —  come back hungry and lean and mean and kind of exciting to watch.

"He's so competitive. And when you don't have an outlet for that, it consumes you."

On Phil Jackson, her fiance, taking a job to run the New York Knicks:

"When you talk about how competitive Kobe Bryant is, I can speak of that first hand. Because I live with somebody just like that in Phil Jackson. He was spending too much time, you know, on his iPad, playing Words With Friends. It's great to see him back working again. He's got that sparkle in his eye, that hunger, to make the Knicks — which was the team that drafted him out of college at the University of North Dakota. So the Knicks really are Phil's team. People were like, 'How did you let Phil go to the Knicks?' And it's kind of like we returned him to the Knicks. That's where he started."

On running the Lakers franchise without her father, Jerry Buss:

"Fortunately my Dad had groomed me for the position that I'm in for many, many years. But nothing can prepare you for the loss of your leader and the person who inspired you. In this experience, of the last couple weeks, this was something nobody could ever anticipated — dealing with the ownership of the Clippers — and I sure would love to be able to have a conversation with my Dad. But I have to think, to remember all the lessons that he taught me, his philosophy, his outlook.

"The Lakers represented to him something that brought the city of Los Angeles together. That it could cross all economic, demographic, generational [lines], … it brought everybody together. And he was so proud of that. And Los Angeles, even though he wasn't born here, this was his town. He would never want to see anything — especially when Magic Johnson was named specifically — and my Dad being so fond of Magic as if he was his son. Magic talks about the influence my Dad had on him as a businessman. So, you know, I miss him."

On the New York Times' recent map of basketball fan loyalty and the Lakers reach beyond Southern California:

"You could really say that the Lakers are America's team. We've taken that to heart by, during the preseason, we're allowed to take our team to territories that don't belong to other teams. We were the first team to play in Oklahoma City in that building. Way before the Thunder moved there.

"We played in Memphis before that team was there. We played in New Orleans before that team was there. We took the Lakers across America. And, of course, our home away from home is Hawaii. We love to fill in for territories that don't have an NBA team. I'm proud to know that there's so many Lakers fans out there."


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