Jerry West has a new autobiography coming out, and the San Jose Mercury News has some excerpts and a look at West who recently purchased a small stake of the Warriors and is working as a consultant on the basketball side. Most notable is his description of how Phil Jackson treated the former Laker great when Jackson took over as Lakers head coach:
West says he was definitely troubled by Jackson’s relationship with Jeanie Buss and was put off by much of what Jackson was doing (Jackson’s first year was West’s last with the Lakers).
”So one of the problems I had with Phil was this,” West writes. “His office was right near mine and when he would arrive in the morning, he would walk right past and never even bother to wave or duck his head in to say hello.
“He would later say that he felt the need to stake out his territory, that on top of that he was ’a wack job,’ but I am sure it was more than that.”
West compares Jackson’s attitude to Pat Riley’s reach for more power after winning titles as the Laker coach, but West suggests that Jackson’s display was a colder version to experience.
“Phil and I had no relationship,” West writes. “None. He didn’t want me around and had absolutely no respect for me–of that, I have no doubt.”
West goes on to discuss the time when Jackson threw him out of the locker room dismissively. It’s a wholly ugly situation that doesn’t speak well of Jackson, who so often is discussed as the lovable “Zen Master” despite a long standing history of dismissing and disparaging other coaches, players, and league personnel. For West, it’s a window into the hurt he felt over his separation from the Lakers, and puts a pretty big nail in any remaning coffin concerning his possible involvement in the Pau Gasol trade (which occurred after West had left the Grizzlies anyway).
West is known to be sensitive. He takes things very personally and suffers through the negative events in his life. But the excerpt provides a clearer window into the Lakers’ organization and Jackson’s acerbic behavior. It also serves, along with a discussion of the deterioration of West’s relationship with Jerry Buss, as an example of how the Lakers organization generally throws its history in the garbage pail. Magic Johnson is the rare exception of a player to continue having a good relationship with the team. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O’Neal, Bryan Shaw, the list goes on for people torched by the organization once their usefulness had run its course. It happens a lot in sports. I just happens a lot with the Lakers. Kind of odd for arguably the greatest franchise in sports.
Then again, the Lakers did just give him his own statue outside Staples Center. So things can’t be that bad.