It was reported Wednesday that despite interest from Jerry West in returning the the team he helped guide to the NBA Finals multiple times as a player and executive, the Los Angeles Lakers did not plan to bring him back and he would instead look at a similar role with the LA Clippers.
West went on the the Dan Patrick show Thursday to discuss those reports, and it sounds like he really wishes he could’ve ended his career in Los Angeles (where he still lives despite serving as a consultant for the Golden State Warriors).
“To me, basketball was the love of my life. It still is. I loved the Lakers, okay?” West told Patrick (as transcribed by Mark Medina of the L.A. Daily News). “Obviously I wish everyone well. My son works there. I’m very proud that he works there. Sometimes I thought in my life that might be something that I can revisit, or they would want me to revisit. But that didn’t happen.
“At times, I would say I was disappointed, but it kind of sent me a message. They wanted to go elsewhere, which is fine,” West continued. “But to say I wouldn’t have liked to end my career there, that wouldn’t necessarily be true either.”
By any measure, West is one of the most successful executives not just in Lakers or NBA history, but in professional sports history as well. The man took the lead in building both the “Showtime” Lakers and later recrutied Shaquille O’Neal and traded Vlade Divac for a rookie named Kobe Bryant in one fell swoop of an offseason, building a duo that would lead the Lakers to win three titles in a row.
He left the Lakers amid dysfunction with Phil Jackson that has been credited to the former head coach’s relationship with Jeanie Buss making him “uncomfortable,” (which could potentially be a reason Buss wouldn’t want to bring him back) and helped rebuild the Memphis Grizzlies.
Since departing Memphis, West has been serving as an advisor to the front office that helped build the current juggernaut Warriors team that tips it’s third straight NBA Finals tonight. It’s been reported that he was integral in the team’s crucial decision to not trade Klay Thompson for Kevin Love.
The Lakers would of course be well-served to have a voice with that much knowledge in their front office. Any team would. West’s credentials are unassailable.
That being said, it’s also at least somewhat understandable if a new front office still establishing its own voice wouldn’t want to bring a presence that large into the room as they try to implement their process and build their own credibility down the league. There is a reason the phrase “too many cooks in the kitchen” exists.
The Warriors have made it work, but for whatever personal or professional reasons the Lakers are choosing not to give such a scenario a shot. If West joins the Clippers and helps them rebuild to any level of success next door, it would certainly be painful for the Lakers.
Regardless of where he goes, the front office’s decision to pass on “the Logo’s” input will be worth looking back on in a few years. If they’ve built a successful team it will be a footnote, but if they haven’t, it’s a choice that will definitely be getting thrown back in their face by local columnists.
West’s full remarks on the Lakers can be read below: