October 20, 2011
From serious and startling issues like his lifelong battle with depression, frustrating issues like the anxiety that marked his career as a player, coach and executive, and "come on, get over it, guys"-issues like his battle with former Lakers coach Phil Jackson, the hubbub around Jerry West's new biography has our antenna up. We haven't purchased the book to review, yet, but it's not as if we have a lockout's amount of time waiting for us to fill up, do we?
More anecdotes, both from the book and otherwise, keep popping up. Like the ones the Memphis Commercial Appeal's Ronald Tillery relayed on Wednesday. West ran the Memphis Grizzlies from 2002 until 2007, a fact many of the press recaps of his career forget as they jump from his time with the Lakers (which ended in 2000), to his recent hiring by the Golden State Warriors.
Although West enjoyed Elvis-like status during his stay -- police once stopped traffic to allow him to cross Union Avenue -- he says "unsettling things happened too."
West became the object of at least two stalkers, which forced him to hire a security guard.
"One woman even went so far as to buy a wedding dress for the happy life she envisioned we would have together," West wrote.
Yikes. On a happier note, I suppose, was this bit about onetime Grizzlies coach Mike Fratello:
"The problem I had with Mike Fratello had to do with the type of offense he wanted the team to run -- a very slow, controlled game -- and I tried to tell him that he needed to reconsider this," West wrote. "I warned him, 'Everyone is killing me, Mike. The agents with players' complaints, the fans, the press. This is not what we should be doing.' But Mike was very stubborn; he was convinced that his approach was correct."
Ah, come on guy.
Mike Fratello's teams (starting in his final season with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 1999, and working backwards) finished 25th (out of 29 teams), 17th, 29th, 27th (out of 27 teams) and 26th in Pace Factor. That's heading into his first year with the Grizzlies. Outside of Doug Collins, the man might be the slowest coach of the modern era, and even Doug has had some spring to his team's step through the years. That's not a shot at Mike, who is fantastic; but when you hire Mike Fratello (even in 2005) you know you're getting a coach who is going to walk the ball up the court.
It should be pointed out that West had the biggest hand in Memphis' initial playoff runs, even if he inherited Pau Gasol(notes) and Shane Battier(notes) upon coming to Tennessee in late April of 2002. Still, THIS IS NOT THE POINT! THEY STOPPED TRAFFIC FOR THIS MAN!
On a much, much nicer note is this warming interview with Fox Sports West's Joe McDonnell:
"A wonderful example came in 1993, when West traded Sam Perkins — one of his favorite Lakers ever — to Seattle for Doug Christie and Benoit Benjamin. He was nearly distraught when I talked with him a few minutes before he appeared as a guest on my radio show.
"Perkins is one of the best guys we've had come through here, and believe me, this isn't a trade I wanted to make," West said. "I just think it's going to make us better in the future. And please do me a favor, say nice things about Sam; he's really down about this. He doesn't want to go. You can rip me to shreds; I understand those things and you have a job to do. But please take care of Sam."
(He should have had someone tell him to "please take care of Doug," but this, again, is not the point.)
What a life. More stories, please. Gotta get that book.