PALM DESERT, Calif. - The sports would is mourning the death of a legend. Los Angeles Lakers owner and hall-of-famer Dr. Jerry Buss has died at the age of 80. Buss died in Los Angeles from kidney failure after a long battle against cancer.
People all over are remembering his remarkable legacy, including in the Coachella Valley. Buss took the reigns of the Lakers in 1979 and changed the way people view the franchise, not to mention, leading them to 10 NBA championships. "It is the end of an era, and in that regard you want to reflect on what a great time it was," said Palm Desert high school basketball head coach Don Brady.
During the 1980s and 1990s Buss not only owned the Lakers, he owned the Ocotillo Lodge in Palm Springs. He would bring the team of superstars to College of the Desert for training camp during the fall. "It was Kareem Abdul Jabaar, it was Michael Cooper, it was Magic Johnson, it was James Worthy," said Brady. "These guys spent time, because of Jerry Buss bringing the Lakers to town."
For those who knew him well, Dr. Buss' decision to bring the Lakers to town reflected his genius as an owner. "What Jerry realized was, why don't I give back by bringing the Lakers out there, so people could see them," said Steve Garvey, Dodgers' legend and good friend of Buss. "They could see the athletes up close, identify with them and cheer for them. He was very, very smart in the way he created his fan base."
John Marman was a key player in bringing the Lakers to town. He was the athletic director at College of the Desert during that time. He recalls the Lakers being very personable. In fact, he still keeps a photo of his son with Magic Johnson in his living room. He says the way the players interacted with the fans reflects their humble owner. "The guy was quiet, he didn't say here I am, Jerry Buss," said Marman. "You didn't really notice it. People probably if they didn't know it, wouldn't notice he was sitting there, he was sitting in the stands, just like everybody else."
While he might have kept a low profile in the desert, his legacy is larger than life. "The guy became one of the icons of club sports, the way he created the culture with the Lakers, their consistency, their winning," said Garvey. "He was, in a city full of personalities, his was big as any of the movie stars."