Five quick things you’ll learn after reading the 1-pound “Jerry West: The Life and Legend of a Basketball Icon” by Roland Lazenby, which hit bookstores today ($28, ESPN Books, 448 pages, linked here):
== West, on his relationship with Phil Jackson, and how it played in West leaving the organization’s front office: “People think I hate Phil Jackson. I don’t hate him. I really didn’t know Phil. We are so different in terms of how he interacts with people. I was used to kidding around with people . . . Phil was just different.”
== West, on having to fire Pat Riley as coach in the early ’90s: “People think I hated Pat Riley or didn’t like him. That’s not true either. . . There are certain coaches that draw attention and want attention. And there are others that don’t. I think the ones who don’t want it, their natures are different. Pat is a little bit more flamboyant in his approach to things . . .”
== West, on when the Lakers moved from the Forum to Staples Center in 1999: “I’m not sure (owner) Jerry Buss realized how important that was. It was a license to print money. Jerry had been a great operator and a terrific owner. We used to talk almost every day when he was in his office. But then he quit coming to the office.”
== West, hired as the Lakers coach in 1976, tried to talk then-owner Jack Kent Cooke into acquiring Julius Erving, to play alongside Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, when the ABA folded that year. The Philadelphia 76ers made it happen instead. “We could have gotten Julius Erving,” West says. “That’s the only time I ever got involved. I told Mr. Cooke, ‘You should take this guy. . .’ He told me it wasn’t my money; it was his money. So be it. I never talked to him about those things anymore.”
West later admits, even after admitting that he set aside his differences later with Cooke before Cooke’s death: “Nevertheless, I really didn’t like Jack Kent Cooke.”
== A sexy excerpt that has been circulating in pre-book release had to do with Magic Johnson’s sexual escapades with the Lakers, where the team sauna at the Forum was a place for him and other players to entertain women, even right after games, before Johnson would put on a robe and do post-game media interviews. Said West: “I cared. I did things for those guys. It was ridiculous, some of the things I did for those guys. If the public knew, they’d be outraged. It was a pretty crazy period for us.”
Lazenby has since address that excerpt (linked here) on his “Laker Noise” blog to try to give it some context.