Jerry West as GM

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Postby Chuck Durante » Fri Jun 04, 2010 3:27 am

I'm trying to remember who traded the starting center of a 53-win team for a 17-year-old.
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Postby thehef » Mon Jun 07, 2010 10:30 pm

The same guy who wanted to draft Sidney Moncreif instead of Earvin "Magic" Johnson? ;-)
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Postby Chuck Durante » Wed Jun 09, 2010 1:19 am

It was controversial in 1983, but when the best GM of the past 30 years traded popular Norm Nixon to the Clippers for collegian Byron Scott, it put the ball in Magic's hands and helped him reach his potential.
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West still a fan of the Memphis team

Postby rlee » Thu Oct 21, 2010 1:53 pm

West still a fan of the Memphis team
by Ronald Tillery
Memphis Commercial Appeal

He travels between Los Angeles and West Virginia these days -- with an eye on Memphis.

When Jerry West says he watches every Grizzlies game, he talks in a high-pitched voice and with unbridled passion.

"I watch more Grizzlies games than Lakers games," West said. "It's very important to me that they win. I'm a fan."

West used to be the Grizzlies' president of basketball operations. He served Memphis in that role for five years, ending in 2007.

Quibble if you will about West's personnel moves but he undoubtedly made the Grizzlies relevant mainly because he orchestrated the best of times in team history.

The Griz earned three consecutive trips to the NBA playoffs with West at the helm. The Griz hadn't sniffed success before and it's been a struggle to reclaim the glory years since West's departure.

So as the Griz prepare to celebrate their 10th season in Memphis, it seems only fitting to reflect with West. In an exclusive, wide-ranging interview, West talked to The Commercial Appeal about his successes and failures in Memphis and the current direction of the franchise:

Q: Were you in Memphis longer or shorter than you expected you'd be?

A: I really don't know. One of the things I'd hope for from a personal perspective is that we could build a playoff team and then build on that. That's not something you can do overnight. Our second year, Hubie Brown did an incredible job and it was so gratifying to see the improvement we made. To me, it was largely through his efforts. It was really fun. The enthusiasm from the fans was special. A lot of people have a lot of questions when you do things and you try to do things that are correct. And Hubie did such an incredible job with that franchise. All of us who worked with him had a singular admiration for him. I thought the crowds would build and we'd be an important entity in that town. One of the things that really hurt was when Hubie retired. That was a sad day for me. But I'd say my first four years down there I had a great time. The last year was a disaster starting with Pau (Gasol) getting hurt. It seemed like everything fell apart.

Q: What was your best move when you look back on your time here?

A: I try to look at the big picture. I believe in the culture of winning. When you get a lot of players in an organization that's losing it's acceptable to lose. It doesn't make them bad people. But there's unselfishness to playing to win. People talk about chemistry. That's what we were able to do. We built chemistry within the organization. We moved around people pretty fast. And then we had players that competed at a high level. That was Hubie's genius. But I don't look back and revel in one thing. It was a process.

Q: What move have you second-guessed the most?

A: My biggest disappointments came when we were in position in the lottery to get a franchise player and we never got one. I think the lottery is flawed. If we would have gotten a branded player, this franchise would have been much further along and they still would have Pau Gasol there. It's so much easier to build when you have two really good players. I think about the time when it came down to us for one of the first two picks. There was LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony and we didn't get any of them. The other time (in 2007) when we could have gotten a good player, Al Horford would have been great next to Gasol. And let me tell you, Mike Conley is going to be OK. He's going to be in the NBA for 12-14 years. But that's the one thing we missed: somebody who played the game at a high level and became a branded player. Those are people that brand your team and help franchises win.

Q: But is there anything you would have done differently?

A: Oh gosh, yes. The year we drafted Drew Gooden. He has been in the league a long time. But we could have had Amare Stoudemire. He would have added some cache and star power to this team. It's not that Drew is a bad player but Stoudemire is a star. We didn't look at him the way we should have. And you know, everyone thinks the Grizzlies have done a terrible job drafting and they haven't. The Griz are ranked ninth in drafting in terms of their history. But I'll always take the blame for players who didn't turn out the way we would have liked. Overall, fans can be very critical and it's easy to be critical. But they're not as critical as those of us who work in these positions.

Q: You were leaving as Marc Iavaroni took over in 2007. He was your recommendation. How would you analyze his tenure?

A: I gave Mike (Heisley) three names to look at. And I watched Marc very carefully. When you lose close games and players don't react the way you want to react, the first person you look at is the people who brought them there and/or the coach. I'm sure he learned a lot and he's very disappointed. Somewhere along the way, some people see it and Marc didn't.

Q: What are your thoughts on the job Lionel Hollins has done as coach?

A: Lionel has done a terrific job. I'm very happy for him. These things all work out in the end. He's had a lot of experience with a lot of different coaches. He likes tough players, which I like. He likes players who will guard somebody. He understands you can't win unless you defend. That's going to be important for this team. They've played very well in the exhibition season. It doesn't mean anything but it does mean they're capable. That's a plus.

Q: Do you still give advice to (owner) Mike Heisley?

A: He'll ask my opinion about things. Everyone has an opinion. But to say I'm advising him on anything wouldn't be the truth. It's just my opinion. He's talking to other people.

Q: You reportedly have a high opinion of Hasheem Thabeet. Why?

A: He's going to be in this league, like it or not, 10-14 years. He's going to be in this league that long. He's young and how many guys can block shots like he does in this league? Dwight Howard. If people are going to give up on him then they're crazy. He's got a skill. People that rebound in college rebound in the NBA. People that block shots in college block shots in the NBA.

Q: I have to ask. What was going through your mind when the Griz signed Allen Iverson last season and then the relationship ended before it started?

A: I wasn't there. I don't know anything about it. It's difficult for a player like Allen to have a subservient role. I only know Allen to say hello to him. Was that the right player? You can look back and say no. But they were trying to get a player to help them and draw fans. It wasn't a disaster. There's a method to people's madness. I wished it would have worked. It didn't. But I think they should be applauded for what they were trying to do. You'd have to give them an 'E' for effort.

Q: What do you think of the team's direction now?

A: Rudy (Gay) has a chance to be a player you'd want to come and watch. He's fun and he's a wonderful kid. I know how hard he's worked the past two summers. He's made enormous strides. Zach Randolph competes every night. You can win with a player like Marc (Gasol). He competes and he's unselfish. Mike Conley is developing. I just think O.J. Mayo has to get better. They have a nice young nucleus and if they can afford to keep them all together they'll be good for a long time. You have to give Mike (Heisley) and Chris (Wallace) credit. They're on the right track. The future looks good.

Q: Can the franchise survive here another 10 years?

A: With the players they've got their fans should support them. They have a good young team. Lionel's done a terrific job. Mike and Chris have assembled a lot of good talent. If they can get them on the same page and if they can play defense then they have a chance to make the playoffs this year. To me the Grizzlies are right there. They have to win close games. Look at all the close games they lost last year. And you could see Lionel just dying over there. But I don't think the West is as good this year. Some of the best players are aging. They should make the playoffs this year. It wouldn't shock me at all if they make the playoffs.
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Re: Jerry West as GM

Postby Chuck Durante » Mon Jun 22, 2015 8:02 pm

More on the most accomplished general manager in league history: ... e-warriors
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Re: Jerry West as GM

Postby thehef » Sun Jul 12, 2015 9:11 am

Most accomplished? Very possibly. Also, though: Most overrated. Certainly one who capitalized on right place, right time. And that is no insult.

Years from now, after West is dead and burried, will people (maybe Chuck D's kids?) still be finding ways to credit West for future teams' rebuilds and championships? :)

I'll reiterate that the history of the league is littered with what West did in Memphis: A GM takes over a lousy team, rebuilds it into a playoff team for a few years, and then sees it revert to the back of the pack. A nice turnaround job? Sure. Spectacular? Clearly, no. (In fact, the Grizzlies current several-year run - which has not only included some actual playoff wins, but series wins - is more-impressive than West's Grizzlies' run.)

As for West's Lakers run, a good chunk of his reputation is built on the five titles won in the 80's. So, if we were to make a list of those most-responsible for those titles - other than those in the front office - that list would probably look a little something like this:

1a. Jabbar
1b. Magic
3. Riley
4. Worthy
5. Scott
6. Wilkes
7. Coop
8. Nixon

We can certainly quibble about the order and wonder where Thompson, AC Green, McAdoo, Chones, etc., belong on the list, and if they should be higher than Coop & Nixon, etc. That's not the point. Consider who - among those listed (and not listed) above - were West acquisitions:

Jabbar - Acquired by GM Sharman
Magic - Drafted by Sharman; West wanted to draft Sidney Moncrief

Right there, West was handed two of the greatest players in NBA history - one not only in his prime, but who would defy father time and play as an all-star for years, and the other who pretty much reached his prime immediately.

Riley - Hired by Doc Buss
Worthy - Nice pick by Jerry (high pick handed to him thanks to Sharman)
Wilkes - Signed by Sharman
Scott - Nice pick/trade. A bold move by J West.
Coop - Drafted by Sharman
Nixon - Drafted by Sharman
Chones, Rambis, McAdoo - Sharman acquisitions
Green, M. Thompson - Nice moves by West

The bottom line was that West was handed a champion & top draft slot, including two of the greatest players in NBA history - one of whom he wouldn't have had if it had been up to him. Then someone who would turn out to be one of the greatest coaches in NBA history was named coach by West's owner. What did Jerry do with that? He did a very nice job of maintaining the championship-level team, making a few nice picks and a few nice trades. He did NOT do anything spectacular. The evidence just isn't there, unless we are just blindly assigning greatness to being there and doing a few nice things, without looking at context.

Given the list above and the context, I'd wouldn't hesitate for a second to give more credit (for LA's 80's titles) to Bill Sharman than to West. Start with #'s 1a and 1b, and then go down the list. You have to go down to #5 on the list to assign full credit to Jerry.

And neither Chuck nor anyone else has offered evidence to support the claim that "...West's record of drafting from three-point range is remarkable, indeed stunning." It is neither remarkable nor stunning, unless average is the same as stunning. Nobody will provide the evidence of West's "remarkable, indeed stunning" draft record because it simply does not exist. Period.

Much like other myths (for example, "you have to lose the title before you can win it"), those surrounding Jerry West have been repeated so often that they have become "fact." But the evidence just doesn't exist to support them.

"I'd rather be lucky than good." I say Jerry West is both. However, to borrow from Branch Rickey, Jerry West's good fortune was the residue of Bill Sharman's design :)

Finally, before some of ya's start attacking the premise (without backing it up and/or countering any of my contentions), I'll reiterate that I do feel that West is (or was, to be accurate) a very good GM. I'd certainly let him run/rebuild my team. But if he turned me down, I wouldn't feel as though there aren't others just as capable.
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Re: Jerry West as GM

Postby Mike Goodman » Mon Jul 13, 2015 9:52 pm

Even modest successes can add up to greatness, if there are no accompanying disasters.
Just hanging around for enough years on a job, you will inevitably make some good choices and some stinkers.
What were Jerry West's worst decisions?
36% of all statistics are wrong
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Re: Jerry West as GM

Postby Robert Bradley » Tue Jul 14, 2015 5:11 am

Mike Goodman wrote:Even modest successes can add up to greatness, if there are no accompanying disasters.
Just hanging around for enough years on a job, you will inevitably make some good choices and some stinkers.
What were Jerry West's worst decisions?

There are a few, but not many - Sam Perkins traded for Doug Christie & Benoit Benjamin is one that comes to mind.
Available at

Robert Bradley's Pro Basketball History Revisited Blog
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