Speaking of a couple of former employees of ESPN, Magic Johnson repeated on Tuesday opponents who were released earlier in the day in an ESPN.com story that he repeatedly argued and mistreated employees in his two years as president of basketball operations for the Los Angeles Lakers.
After ESPN host Stephen A. Smith summarized the "behind-the-scenes turmoil" report described in the Lakers front office, Johnson issued a blanket denial.
"I've never been to a HR office for 35 years," said Johnson. "Do you think (the owner of the Lakers) Jeanie Buss will allow me to abuse employees? If so, she would have called me in … it never happened."
Magic Johnson abruptly emerged as the Los Angeles Lakers' president of basketball operations on April 9 before the team's battle against Portland Trail Blazers. (Photo: Richard Mackson, USA TODAY Sports)
As no complaints were filed against Johnson for unprofessional workplace behavior, several employees told ESPN that they were not happy to go to the team's human resources department for fear to be
Management style questioned
The ESPN.com report quoted almost two dozen current and former team staff with others close to the team, describing an organization where dysfunction ran violently and fear was it primary motivator.
Over the past two years, 37.5% of the team's front office staff are no longer with the organization, the report said.
"Many of the Laker employees did not like me being held accountable. That was my job," Johnson said. "Should I fire some people? Yes, because we had to make change and get better."
Johnson also violated the claims that he might have been less interested in Lakers than in their other business ventures. Some employees told ESPN that Johnson could only be seen in the office only once a week or every two weeks.
"Lazy? I've built a $ 600 million business," he countered. "You can't be lazy in playing basketball and winning five championships – so I wasn't lazy as a player. And I'm not lazy as CEO and business owner. It will never happen."
Magic looks back
About Wilbon, if he would have done something different, Johnson said he "would have hired my own people from the beginning."
Both Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka have acknowledged the strained relationship they had. Johnson also inherited head coach Luke Walton, who "mutually agreed" to share paths with the team at the end of this season.
Nevertheless, Johnson insisted that he remains "a person who brings everyone together" who notes his business relationships with companies such as Starbucks, Sony, Sodexo and his involvement with the Guggenheim group, which owns the Los Angeles Dodgers.
No one has ever called me and said that Magic mistreated an employee and that would never happen, "he said.
" I know the truth. Jeanie knows the truth because if I had respected anyone, she would have called me to her office. And it never happened. "