Stephen A. Smith: Lakers Want but Won't Land Pat Riley to Replace Magic Johnson

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistApril 19, 2019

Los Angeles Dodgers part owner and former Los Angeles Lakers player Magic Johnson, right, and former Lakers coach Pat Riley watch the Dodgers in the first inning of a baseball game against the San Francisco Giants in Los Angeles, Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2012. (AP Photo/Jason Redmond)
Jason Redmond/Associated Press

The Los Angeles Lakers lost a franchise icon from the front office when Magic Johnson stepped down as president of basketball operations with an impromptu press conference earlier this month, but they are reportedly chasing another.

ESPN's Stephen A. Smith said on Friday's episode of First Take that owner Jeanie Buss prefers to make a "splash" hire and is pursuing Pat Riley as a potential replacement. "More and more and more over the last few days ... we are hearing the name Pat Riley," Smith said.

However, it should be noted Smith said he doesn't think the Lakers will ultimately be able to hire him.

Despite Smith's report, Riley already addressed the possibility of joining the Purple and Gold and seemed to shut the door, per Shandel Richardson of The Athletic:

"I mean, I'm not going to comment on another team's misfortune while they're going through some adversity right now. There's no doubt that I have a history with that team. I was there for 20 years and I have a lot of friends still in the organization. I had a good conversation with Magic after he stepped down and I'm sure they'll work it out. I'm not going to be part of that. That's not what I want to do."

Riley may not have the statue outside Staples Center like Johnson does, but he is a Lakers legend.

He played for the team from the 1970-71 season until he was traded to the Phoenix Suns in November 1975. Los Angeles won a championship and reached another NBA Finals during his time as a player, although he is better known for what he did after he retired and moved to the sidelines.

Riley was the head coach of the Lakers from the 1981-82 season until the 1989-90 season, reaching the Finals seven times and winning four. He was one of the key architects of the Showtime Lakers era, coaching Johnson as he torched opposing defenses and created artistry in the open floor in transition.

Riley also reached the NBA Finals as head coach of the New York Knicks, won one title as head coach of the Miami Heat and won two more as Miami team president.

Those front office titles surely stand out for a Lakers team that is in disarray after parting ways with head coach Luke Walton and watching Johnson walk away. The team has missed the playoffs in six straight seasons and finished a mere 37-45 in 2018-19 despite signing LeBron James prior to the campaign.

Injuries had plenty to do with the Lakers' struggles, but the fact they missed the playoffs entirely after James reached the previous eight NBA Finals made the season a failure.

Riley and James combined to help bring Miami two titles, but the former's comments about Los Angeles' vacancy suggests they won't be teaming up in Southern California.

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