There are some tickets left to see Jerry West discuss his memoir with Peter Guber tomorrow, Oct 18, at Track 16 at Bergamot Station. Get ’em here.
Here’s a link to a Q&A the Los Angeles Times did with West. Here’s an excerpt:
Kobe Bryant worked out for you at Inglewood High that year, with the great defenderMichael Cooper guarding him. At the end, you said, “I’ve seen enough.” What did you see?
“Drafting high school players that high back then was not in vogue, but he was such an incredibly talented kid who could not just run fast and jump high . . . it was his joy for the game. He’d die on that court. It was so easy to see that. I felt he’d help us on our quest to get Shaquille, and be a tremendous piece — the prince in waiting. I remember telling Jerry the night of the draft, ‘We might’ve got the No. 1 player in the draft [at No. 13].’ He is a player for the decades.”
(During this interview, West said his team-building strategy was based on “looking for good fits . . . it’s about talent, but [also] how that talent fits together, judging how the talent will mature.” He said he retains “a special spot in my heart” for former coach Pat Riley, who led the team to four titles in theMagic Johnson–Kareem Abdul-Jabbar era.)
You write that coach Phil Jackson “absolutely had no respect” for you, and that as your “incredible feeling for the Lakers began to wane” in the late 1990s, in hindsight, you “would have left shortly after [Jackson] arrived,” in 1999. Why was that relationship so bad?
“I told Jerry Buss to hire him. The only thing I cared about was winning, but you want a relationship with your coach. There was no relationship. You felt, ‘This is not the way we’ve operated, and we’ve won without him.’ You can’t win without great players. As good as Phil is, he might improve a team with bad players, but he wasn’t going to win. I felt underappreciated by leadership, and leadership is ownership. As we left the Forum to Staples Center, I’d say, ‘What am I doing here? What am I doing to myself?’ Destructive feelings, a different drama every day. Leaving was the biggest relief of my life. They had just won a championship, and would win two more. It was time for me to go.”