Jerry West’s extended Q&A on working with Warriors (part 1)

I highlighted the main nuts and bolts on how famed Laker Jerry West has relished his role on the Golden State Warriors’ executive board. But West has always had the gift and gab and was gracious with his time in an hour-long interview, so it’s inevitable that some good material was left on the cutting room floor. Below are portions of our interview broken up into two parts:

On the Warriors’ progress

I think the team has made progress for sure. It has an awful lot to do with what the players we acquired. We have some size now. Last year we had no size and we were a terrible rebounding team. Very good shooting team, but didn’t have enough size to stop people. What I saw through preseason, we were a pretty deep team. Obviously we had a setback the other night due to losing one of our better perimeter defenders and a guy who can make three point shots (Brandon Rush).

We feel we had a really good draft and got some young kids who are getting an opportunity to play. Harrison Barnes will get more of an opportunity. Obviously we would love have had not to have any injuries. But that seems to follow this franchise for some reason. I’m very pleased the upgrade in talent and also being involved with young guys in the front office right there. That makes it fun
for me because I’m not one of those people who could handle the every day grind that goes on.

On what appealed to him about the Warriors’ role

What happens with me in just watching that, that’s probably the part I miss the most. Watching teams get assembled and watching teams get put together. They have an awful lot of young players up there. To be an adviser who has an opportunity to exercise some of the things I’ve seen and be a council
for those young guys, it’s been good. The bottom line is the people that sold me Joe Lacob and Peter Guber, two completely different people and wonderful ownership group there. It’s been pretty darn exciting for me to be involved with this in the period in my life.

On how the Lacob pitched the idea to him

The conversations was like when Jerry Buss was involved with the Lakres and the concept of the league had changed in where the league is growing. He was a very charming guy. He wants to build a team. If you’ve been in environments
where you won a lot, you see how important it is to have the right ownership in place. People who have a tremendous desire to build a team and win, that enthusiasm is very contagious toward me. That’s exactly how I feel. I don’t like to lose. I’m not very good at losing. But the biggest thing for me to watch their enthusiasm and knowing what its like to work in a franchise that hadn’t
won much in Memphis. Seeing the succcess down there was pretty exciting for me.

The smaller markets are a much more difficult task. You don’t have the resources and some of the money and ability to spend money. Being with him and seeing his enthusiasm was really the final straw that convinced me this would be maybe the right place for me. It’s been really fun. I don’t feel when I left the game.
I felt horrible with the circumstances for Brandon who had really worked hard this summer and had made tremendous strides and see him win last night. That’s what makes sports so raw. If you look at all of these terrific teams out there, your best player gets hurt, it really decimates them. We don’t have a superstar player. We have a bunch of really good players. We have more than a year ago. That’s a tribute to the front office and ownership and willingness for all of us to participate and go out and try to acquire players and believe it will make a difference. We’re a lot better and a lot more dangerous a year ago. Do we have a way to go? Absolutely. But I see a tremendous attitude change up in
the office. People now feel well about new ownership. It’s not like the old ownership was bad. But every time there’s a change, sometimes just the change itself is positive. The young people up there invigorate me, to be candid with you.

On Harrison Barnes asking him for feedback on his game

Well the one thing I tell young players is the skill development. In college, you can use your athleticism as you can in the NBA. You have to have a little bit of skill and that’s something he can develop. He’s an unbelievably willing worker and a terrific kid. He wants to be really good. People who want to be really good put more time and more effort into it. That’s his goal, to reach his goals. But I think certain players who have been around a while, you interact them differently than younger ones. Younger ones to me, I talk about habits and developing habits. It’s like eating habits. I think they’re very important myself in terms of what players do during the course of the day. Learn to eat at certain times. Rest at certain times to just develop habits that are positive habits. That’s one of the things I feel are very important in terms of future development in younger players.

If you look at older players, everyone has habits. I still have I had when I played to be candid with you. I don’t know if they’re responsible for any success that you had. But I just think it’s important to have them for a lot of
different reasons. Those reasons probably wouldn’t make any sense to anyone. In your life, you have certain things in your life that you have to do to perform and write your stuff. Athletes have to do the same. You can’t have habits that are just all over the place. With basketball season, you’re concentrating on basketball and you develop these habits. You get to practice early. You’re on time.

Getting your rest is vitally important when you play as many games as you do in the NBA. Younger players need older people around them. They could say I feel tired after playing four games in five nights. Well, the veteran people and people in an organization can help them through that. You ask them what they do after games and you say look, here is what you have to do. These habits are going
to be so important for you when you do that. Veteran players and particularly ones who’ve been around and have success, they’re the ones who have done that successfully for so many years in the league and staying productive. It’s almost like going to school for some of these young kids. You go from playing
a 30 game schedule to a 100 game schedule.

On if other players approach him for advice

I’ve always been low key in talking about myself. I loved what I did. That was in the past. I love to kid guys about that and watch people shoot and make a bet I can beat you in shooting. Something playful. To me, when you do stuff like that, it makes them seem real to you and lets them know you care about
them and that you’re paying attention to them in what they’re doing. But if I see mistakes they’re making or little mistakes. I darn sure not interfere with coaches but I would say you need to practice not on your strengths but on your weaknesses. I said do you know what your weaknesses are and most of them are pretty aware of it.

On his role with the team

The business part of it is handled by business people. The most important thing when you’re in those meetings is to be candid and to be honest with them. Don’t try to be political and make statements that are not true. If your team is going to be lousy, I don’t think our team is going to be lousy. But obviously when you have people hurt, that’s not good. But I think we’re much improved and
we want to go on an upward track and not on a downward track. But they have hired so many people up there who are so competent and thorough and have been impressed with the people up there and how the owners want to do the right thing. The right thing is to win. These are very successful people on the board. They get a preview of the new arena that will be built. I think it’s the most beautiful arena in the league.

The people who are working on that, you see the enthusiasm of a group of new young owners. I look at the Lakers and they’ve been under Jerry’s supervision for so long and obviously he has done somethings here that changes how the league really tries to do business. The entertainment aspect of it, the pricing throughout the league has been championed by him. He’s been a great owner for a long time. Trust me, these new owners have their new ideas on how to do things. But I think in the back of their mind, they seem to want to look at certain franchises and wonder they’ve been pretty good.

A lot of is a great element of luck. People don’t believe it. Everyone is so much smarter than someone else. It’s really not the case. A lot of people work extremely hard at it and extremely competitive. Humility is the greatest word in the world. When you build a team and a build a reputation like the Lakers and
the Celtics, there’s a certain amount of humility you have to have. You can be on top for a long time. Pretty soon, unless you get really lucky, when you start to lose your key players, it’s going to take a while to get back. This has been really fun for me to take it at this point in my life when I thought my basketball life was over. To be asked questions is flattering. It’s flattering that someone thinks you can do a job and more importantly and they call and ask for advice. I never tell them what to do. That’s not my role now. But the open conversations we have up there are extremely important to me. I have a real affection for the young people I’m working with up there. I almost
feel like a father to them.

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