In season 2 episode 5 of Winning Time, “The Hamburger Hamlet” exposes the end of Shakespeare’s reign. The emergence of Pat Riley as head coach of the Lakers is just around the bend.
I think we can all agree, far too much time was spent on the story of Paul Westhead. Most people with a brain knows that Pat Riley was the Lakers head coach for nearly a decade.
It was the moment fans of Winning Time had been waiting for all season. When are we going to see Pat Riley take over the role as the man in charge of the Lakers?
Westhead did try to plead his case, but his toxic relationship with Magic Johnson is what ended his career of leading the best in the West. Even though Jerry Buss gave him complete control of the team, he took it a step too far.
We call it the Hollywood curse. Sometimes that lifestyle can get into your head and make you bigger than you are.
Money creates false power. In the end, it was never going to work with his type of “high school” offense as Johnson called it. Paul was put in a miracle situation and came a long way.
At the end of the day, he was disappointed but happy to be given the opportunity. It doesn’t erase the fact that there is a problem with the balance of power in the Lakers organization.
Westhead may have gotten it wrong in the end but he wasn’t wrong about the envy that would come with Magic’s big contract extension. And he wasn’t wrong that you can’t let a player, no matter how great they may be, dictate your future and tell you what creative decisions to make with the team.
Especially in the short time he has been there. In this day and age that might fly with a veteran player, but the franchise surrounds itself on how they can make Magic happy. However, when it came to Westhead Magic was not going to budge until he got his way.
The offense being effective wasn’t the issue. The issue was the offense was holding them back.
Teams that they should be beating by 20 points are more they were just squeaking by. Now a win is a win, or is it?
The Lakers organization is set on fire by the press. Press that is highly acclaimed and respected.
It bothers Buss that he is being called a big joke for letting a player put him in this position. Mind you after he just got a 25 million dollar deal.
Not only that, but he has found himself in the same predicament they were in a short time ago, coachless. Then assistant coach Pat Riley heard about Westhead being let go and was convinced he was next.
But Westhead was also convinced they could work this thing out with Magic and fix the off-the-court issues. Riley’s start with the Lakers was no fairy tale, which was largely in part to the team not being a cohesive unit.
The Lakers might have been surviving. But the toxicity in the locker room was not changing.
Jerry West was dying for Pat Riley’s feistiness to come and make an appearance. But he remained cool and collected until he reached his boiling point.
Winning Time season 2, episode 5 recap: The spotlight is back on Jerry West
Jerry West wants anything, and I mean anything but to be the head coach again. Let’s just say from the moment that Jerry Buss asked Jerry West to take over, several F-bombs were used.
After the firing of Westhead, a press conference is held. Buss says West is going to be the offensive captain. On a side note, it happened this way in real life.
And if we saw this today it would be insane but also very entertaining sports television. The press is dying to know who the head coach will be.
Is this another co-coaching situation? Pat Riley is stuck between a rock and a hard place.
Paul Westhead is his friend, but this is also his dream job. He goes into it with compassion but no regret.
The real-life scene was played out very well. It was humorous and chaotic (as Jerry West always is), Pat Riley was pretty much dragged out to center stage by West and said: Surprise you’re the new coach of the Lakers!
Not so professional but it may have been the only way West could hand the torch over quickly. It showed how badly he did not want to be sucked into that job.
Riley has never made it any secret he loves coaching this team and he also has the admiration of the players. Something Westhead never had.
At the start of Riley’s coaching adventure, it’s shaky at best. He thinks he could be on the way out any day now.
But Buss does not want to go back to the drawing board despite the 2-game losing streak. Riley is feeling even more pressure because he has no security yet as head coach.
The Lakers were a mess and it wasn’t just one man that allowed them to get that way.
Winning Time season 2, episode 5 recap: Slick back is on track
If there is one thing Pat Riley is known for it’s his slick back. Even the media teases it.
Down the road, it becomes his trademark. Riley’s shrink-wife remains a good influence on him.
She is more compassionate and laid back than his father ever was. But he was starting to see that as a fault, until his wife reminded him there was a reason he was stuck on the couch and crying a better coaching dream he’d never have.
There is a reason why he failed and a reason why Riley didn’t. They were not the same men.
Riley’s wife may have been on to something because even Jerry West wanted to see that fire in his belly again. The same fire he had when he was a player.
Riley had become a little soft and this best friend-to-player style of coaching, was going to be about as successful as Westhead’s high school offense if he weren’t careful. Pat Riley knew the team liked him.
They were all pals and could connect to each other as former and current players. But he knew they didn’t respect him.
They came to him with all their problems to fix. This player bickering about that player and expecting Riley to do all their dirty work; telling him how to run the team and the offense and ignoring his game plan.
Riley knew this could no longer go on and his head was about to blow. From that moment you start to see why West didn’t want the power any longer or the stress that came with it.
Riley bursts at the seams and puts every single one of his players on the hot seat. It was time for them to communicate as a team.
The only way they have the potential to win another championship is if they are a tight-knit unit. Talent doesn’t matter when you are at each other’s throats and despise each other behind the scenes.
The best teams in history will tell you that they were successful because of the chemistry they had. When you play together as a family, and win as a family, it makes it more special.
Currently, the Lakers are too into themselves to get that. Jerry West was wildly impressed at Riley grounding the team and telling them the words that everyone else was afraid to.
Even to Magic.
Winning Time season 2, episode 5 recap: King Kareem
Jerry Buss and Magic may have been like father and son, but Kareem Abdul-Jabbar revealed he has no interest in Jerry’s life of fast women, or the lifestyle he surrounds himself with. On a night out at the skating rink, he also revealed to Magic Johnson that he’s not jealous of him.
Not one bit. Magic’s huge ego started to shrink when Kareem made him realize the huge deal he got was just a way to lock him in as a Laker for life and less about how much love they have for him.
It’s the love they have for what he can do. Because in 10 years, 25-25 is going to be an average salary.
Years down the line Magic is reimbursed for being underpaid by Buss.
Winning Time season 2, episode 5: Conclusion
At the end of season 2 episode 5, Jerry and Honey get married. It’s a nice little ceremony but we still could have done without the Jeanie and Honey awkwardness.
Speaking of awkwardness what was going on between Jeanie and Magic? Magic Johnson was using Jerry’s office for a 7UP commercial pitch while Buss was gone.
Jeanie had a sense of admiration for the man who stood up to her father and got what he wanted. There was some eye contact and some sexual tension that I was not prepared for.
Just as in real life, Pat Riley takes the 1981-1982 Lakers to the NBA Finals after finishing at the top of the Western Conference with a 57-win year. Now of course they wanted the Boston Celtics but Boston succumbed to Philadelphia and would miss out on this year’s NBA Finals.
During the Eastern Conference finals, the Boston fans knew their team was going to lose and chanted “BEAT LA.” The hatred those two teams have for one another is at an all-time high.
Tune in to HBO next week for a brand-new episode of Winning Time at 9PM ET.