More and more bits from Jerry West’s autobiography are leaking out (here’s a good roundup via KD). With each one, I can’t wait to read the book more and more.
While a lot of the anecdotes tie to his time as a player and GM with the Lakers, the Commercial Appeal found some stuff about his time with the Grizzlies.
What it shows is that West is like you and me — he didn’t like Mike Fratello’s offense, either.
“The problem I had with Mike Fratello had to do with the type of offense he wanted the team to run — a very slow, controlled game — and I tried to tell him that he needed to reconsider this,” West wrote. “I warned him, ‘Everyone is killing me, Mike. The agents with players’ complaints, the fans, the press. This is not what we should be doing.’ But Mike was very stubborn; he was convinced that his approach was correct.”
He also reveals that he had two stalkers while in Memphis, one who went so far as to buy a wedding dress and that forced him to hire a security guard as well.
West was able to build the Grizzlies into a three-time playoff team while he was GM, the Grizzlies were no longer a laughing stock. But he admits he made mistakes (drafting Drew Gooden over Amare Stoudemire is the biggie). What he really was unable to do was to bring in the superstars — Magic, Worthy, Kobe, Shaq — that he was able to find and draw in Los Angeles. And I’m not sure even West could have pulled that off.
There may be no more introspective and compelling figure in American sports than Jerry West.
In his new biography — which hits the stands Wednesday, if you actually still went to stands — West is very open about the challenges of his childhood with an abusive father, how that led to depression and drove him to become what he was.
West opened up about all of this on an episode of HBO’s Real Sports set to air this week, as the Associated Press reports.
West says his West Virginia childhood was devoid of love and filled with anger as a result of his abusive father, who left him feeling tormented and worthless.
“I would go to bed feeling like I didn’t even want to live,” West says in a segment airing Tuesday on HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel.” “I’ve been so low sometimes and when everyone else would be so high because I didn’t like myself.”
West says his depression never bothered him as a player during 14 seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers because he was so driven by a fear of failure. However, once the season ended, he would dwell on the defeats, including the Lakers’ six NBA finals losses to the Boston Celtics.
West was so nervous as a general manager for the Lakers that he famously went to the movies to see “Gladiator” during a 2000 NBA finals game rather than watch.
West admits to taking Prozac and working through his depression now. Hopefully more than just a good story he can inspire a few people to take on their depression, too.
If you’re looking for something to read that gives you a basketball fix during the NBA lockout, I would recommend heading to your local bookstore (if it’s still open) and picking up a copy of Roland Lazenby’s Jerry West biography. It’s simply a fantastic portrait. (West has his autobiography coming out soon, which should be fascinating.)
But before you do that, go read the profile of West at Grantland by Jonathan Abrams — our “if you read one thing today go read this” link. Abrams spent some time with West in his West Virginia home talking about what drove him then and what pulled him back into a front office job with the Golden State Warriors.
West is an introspective man who understands what motivates him in ways most of us simply do not.
“Self-esteem is something I still battle. People look at me and say you’ve got fame, you’ve got admiration, you’ve done this, you’ve done that. As far as I’m concerned, I haven’t done anything. I’ve just fulfilled a dream of competing. I could be special in some ways. Even though I felt at times, ‘My goodness, you’re among the upper echelon,’ there is still a huge void there. A huge void. It is about self-esteem. That’s a thing that has always been a real complex part of my life.
“I see people that have success and I see how poised and polished they are and how they handle it. I wonder inside if they feel the same way that I feel.”
West is as competitive, as driven as anyone who ever played in the league. He fears losing. He couldn’t watch Laker games as a GM because he would get sick. Winning does not bring him joy so much as relief.
Go read Abrams entire article. This is good journalism. And few people walking the planet are as fascinating to read and learn about as Jerry West.
To me, the Golden State Warriors are starting to look a lot like the Corleone family. You remember, from “The Godfather.” Bear with me and we’ll get to it.
Golden State was about as poorly run a basketball operation as there has been in the NBA for two decades. The franchise has made the playoffs once in the past 17 years in a league where more than half the teams make the playoffs.
New owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber are trying to change the culture with this franchise, and that has things like bringing in new COO Rick Welts from Phoenix.
It also means a basketball operations shake up. Jerry West is in a board member, Bob Meyers is in as the assistant GM that everyone knows will have Larry Riley’s GM job in a few seasons. Lacob himself will be in on every decision and his son Kirk Lacob is the GM of the Warriors D-League team (the Dakota Wizards) and is the guy who will eventually run the team. Then there is Mark Jackson, the coach with a loud voice in the organization.
Matt Steinmetz breaks that all down over at CSNBayArea.com then asks a really good question:
Most important, do the Warriors’ decision-makers have the ability to work together? They have an abundance of voices, but do they have focus? Here’s the real question: Is this group a hodgepodge of talent or a team put together with chemistry in mind?
I see this almost as Corleone crime family power structure from the Godfather movies (one and two, we don’t speak about three in my household). Lacob is Vito, the head of the family and the ultimate decision maker. Jerry West is the consigliere. Riley and Meyers are captains, although we all know Meyers eventually gets Riley out of the way. And Kirk is a young Michael Corleone. Or Sonny. Or Fredo. We don’t know yet, the book is still out on him. Maybe Mark Jackson is Sonny.
That power structure can work — the Corleone family did quite well — as long as there is good communication and everyone is playing their roles. The first time somebody makes a power play this could get ugly. Although after the Cohen years, Warriors fans are used to ugly.
Wednesday night in the Bay Area the owners of the Golden State Warriors threw a party for season ticket holders to get them excited about the team and its direction.
What would really get fans excited is to know there will be a season, but the owners couldn’t talk about that. What would get the ticket holders excited would be to talk about players and moves the franchise will make to get better, but because of the lockout the owners couldn’t talk about that, either.
So the team’s ownership brain trust — Joe Lacob, Peter Guber and Jerry West — all said this team was going to be a winner, Matt Steinmetz tells us at CSNBayArea.com. They all said it in confident but vague terms.
The one bit of news is that the Warriors plan to retire Hall of Famer Chris Mullin’s jersey, it will be sent to the rafters on Jan. 20 (a game against the Indiana Pacers, Mullin’s other team). It’s an overdue gesture that the former ownership ignored as they poisoned the franchise’s relationship with Mullin. A relationship the new ownership group has repaired.
Let’s just hope there is a game Jan. 20 where the ceremony can happen. But the Warriors owners can’t talk about that.