Jerry West was an integral part of the L.A. Lakers. After he retired his jersey he then went to coaching them.
The impact that the Lakers have had on the city of Los Angeles, and that West has had on the Lakers, have been profound. The fate of the team and the man have evolved to the point where, to many fans, the two have often defined each other.
Former General Manager of the Los Angeles Lakers, Jerry West was very successful with the Los Angeles Lakers, first as a player, then a coach, and finally an executive.
Of course, Jerry’s Hall of Fame credentials as a player need no further explanation, while his most recent achievement in his "second" career certainly substantiates Mr. Clutch’s membership in the fraternity of outstanding front office personnel.
The sparkling track record speaks for itself. When the Lakers were in the midst of winning five NBA titles en route to earning professional sports’ "Franchise of the Decade" honors during the 1980s, Jerry West, in his typical modest fashion, deflected any credit for the team’s astounding success. According to the Lakers’ master architect, his values as a general manager/player personnel guru would be judged at the end of the Showtime era, when it was time to rebuild the franchise.
Well, consider his most recent challenge a tremendous success, and his value immeasurable, with a capital.
Since winning their last championship in 1988, the Lakers, with Jerry West revamping and retooling the roster, have remained extremely competitive while piecing together the nucleus of another potential NBA champion, as witnessed by three consecutive 50-plus win seasons, highlighted by last year’s 61-win campaign.
As they say, the numbers don’t lie.
West, whose accomplishments as an executive in the Lakers’ front office rival that of his Hall of Fame playing career in their backcourt, begins his 17th year at the top of the club’s management hierarchy in 1998-99 as Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations. His current tenure as the club’s top decision-maker is second longest in the NBA, trailing only Phoenix’s Jerry Colangelo. During his prosperous 16-year stint as both general manager (1982-1994) and Executive Vice President (1995-present), the Lakers have averaged 54.6 victories a season and recorded the NBA’s highest regular season winning percentage (.666,874-438), highlighted by three NBA championships (1985, 1987, 1988) and seven trips to the NBA Finals.
Known for his shrewd personnel movies and trades, West made his biggest acquisition ever in the summer of 1996, when he signed superstar Shaquille O’Neal to a free agent contract, making the Lakers a championship caliber club once again.
Four years ago (1994-95), Jerry West captured NBA Executive of the Year honors for the first time, a long-over-due accolade for a man who helped guide the Lakers through one of the greatest decades in sports history and has once again positioned the team among the NBA’s elite. However, success and Jerry West have been synonymous for many years, especially in Los Angeles over the last 38 seasons. Since the Lakers moved to Southern California in 1960, the club has qualified for post-season play in all but three seasons, two of which the former sharpshooter was not affiliated with the club. Jerry has been affiliated, in one capacity or another with the Lakers for each of their six championships in Los Angeles.
Appropriately dubbed "Mr. Clutch" because of his uncanny ability to produce with the game on the line, West established himself as one of the greatest players in NBA history throughout his brilliant14-year career. Spending each of those 14 seasons with the Lakers, he led the team in scoring seven times , averaging 30-plus points on four occasions, highlighted by a career high of 31.3 during the 1965-66 campaign. In fact, Jerry had the unique distinction of being the oldest player in league history to average over 30 points a game (31.2 in 1969-70, 31 years old) until Michael Jordan eclipsed this mark three years ago. When he retired following the 1973-74 campaign, he had become only the third player in league history to surpass the 25,000 point plateau, finishing with a career scoring average of 27.0 which still ranks fifth-best in NBA history. The Lakers’ all-time scoring leader and the 11th leading scorer in league history (25,192), West was the NBA’s all-time playoff leader in points (4,457) and assists (970) until Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Earvin Johnson, respectively, eclipsed his totals. His playoff scoring average (29.1) is second highest in NBA history, trailing only Michael Jordan (33.4). Additionally, West, who is featured in silhouette on the NBA’s logo, established a long-standing league record by scoring 20-plus points in 25 consecutive appearances in the NBA Finals (1966-1970), which Jordan, once again, surpassed two seasons ago.
Included among Jerry’s many outstanding accomplishments as a player were several incredible feats, notably the compiling of a 40.6 scoring average during the 1965 playoffs (11 games), including an all-time NBA record 46.3 average during a six-game series vs. Baltimore-and the sinking of a 60-foot shot as time expired to send Game 3 of the 1970 NBA Finals vs. New York into overtime (4/29/70). He was also a member of the Lakers’ first (L.A.) NBA championship team in 1972, helping lead Los Angeles to a 69-13 regular season record and a 33-game winning streak, an all-time professional sports record. Additionally, he led the NBA in assists (9.7) during the 1971-72 campaign, and holds the NBA record for most free throws made in a single season (840 in 1965-66). Selected to the All-NBA First Team 10 times and the NBA’s All-Defensive First Team four times, West was also selected to play in 14 consecutive All-Star games during his career, capturing MVP honors in the 1972 classic at the Forum. Jerry was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1979, named to the NBA’s 35th Anniversary Team in 1980 and selected as one of the 50 greatest players in league history in 1997. His $44 jersey was retired by the Lakers and lifted to the rafters of the GW Forum on November 9, 1983. Following retirement at the conclusion of the 1973-74 season and a two-year hiatus from the rigors of the NBA, he returned to the Lakers for the 1976-77 campaign, replacing Bill Sharman as the club’s head coach. In his initial year, the Lakers posted an NBA-best 53-29 record, qualifying for the playoffs for the first of 17 consecutive seasons. Overall, the Lakers posted a 145-101 record during his three seasons at the helm (.589).
Following his three-year coaching stint, West spent three years as a special consultant with the Lakers (1979-1982). He was elevated to general manager of the club prior to the 1982-83 campaign, where he handled day-to-day operations and all player personnel decisions.
Jerry West attended West Virginia University (1956-60), where he was a two-time All-American and concluded his collegiate career with a 24.8 scoring average. Following his senior year, he became the Lakers’ first round pick (first-ever pick in LA Lakers’ history) in the 1960 NBA Draft (second overall). Before entering the NBA, Jerry served as co-captain of the gold-medal winning U.S. Olympic basketball team in Rome in 1960. He was also a member of the victorious U.S. squad in the 1958 Pan American Games.
Born May 28, 1938 in Chelyan, West Virginia, West first garnered national attention as a high school star. As a senior, he led East Bank High School to the state title and became the first prep player in the state’s history to register over 900 points in a single season (32.2 ppg.)
An avid golfer with a three handicap, Jerry West once shot a 62 at the Bel Air Country Club, a course record. Jerry and his wife Karen reside in Bel Air with their sons Ryan and Jonathan. Jerry has three other sons, David, Mark, and Michael, from a previous marriage.