On March 23, 1994, Magic Johnson returned to the NBA as the coach of the Los Angeles Lakers. He would replace former Lakers’ coach Rand Pfund, who compiled a record of 108-119 in the two and a half seasons he was at the helm. At the time, the Lakers were in rebuilding mode with a season record of 27-37 and were headed towards not making the playoffs for the first time since the 1975-76 season.
Back then, there had been a lot of speculation that Johnson might replace Pfund as head coach despite the late Jerry Buss giving him a one-year extension during that time. Johnson, during the early 90s, remained close to the Buss family after having to retire from the NBA in 1991 due to contracting the HIV virus.
“We will relieve Randy of his coaching duties and have hired Earvin as [the head] coach,” said Black, referring to Johnson by his given name. “Earvin is replacing Randy as head coach. Randy will fly home tomorrow. He’s done. Magic will coach the team when they return on Sunday. Bill Bertka will coach the team [in] the next two games in Dallas and Houston.”
When news broke that Johnson would be coaching the team, the press sought out his former coach Pat Riley after a Knicks victory over the Chicago Bulls. He would initially decline to comment but offer this message “Now he’ll find out what torture really is.”
While the late and former commissioner of the NBA, David Stern, said, “Any move that brings Magic Johnson back to our league is a good one for us.”
Magic coached only 16 games going 5-11 during the stint and then decide to give it another shot as a player in 1995-1996. However, he would decide to retire for good this time a couple months later (May 14, 1996).
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Magics Ex-Teammate Wish he Would Have Given Coaching More of a Consideration
Earlier this season, former Los Angeles Laker and current Southwest analyst Cedric Ceballos shared that he wished Magic would have kept coaching.
“He had a bad stint with coaching, but I wish he could have dug deep and kept coaching because he has a lot to give. And that is one of the reasons why he gave up his title as [President of Basketball Operations] with the Lakers because when the young fellas come to and say hey man how do I handle this? Or teach me how to do this, he couldn’t do it be he was in the front office. He has a great basketball mind an not being able to share utilize that is something that we as basketball players always say we have to bless it forward,” said Ceballos.
“If we know how to do something grab a young fella and teach them how to do it and that is why the game is so elevated. It is much better now when comes to physical shooting and the way the game is played because we learn something. That’s why Dr. J learned something he taught Michael [Jordan], he learned something he taught Kobe [Bryant] and he taught LeBron [James]. So, just keep passing it down to the next person in line.”