LOS ANGELES – Jerry West considers himself an unconventional man who makes unconventional choices.
As a player for the Los Angeles Lakers, he decided to leave the game in 1974 even though he would have been paid the highest salary in the NBA. When he ran the Lakers as general manager decades later, he left his job after winning a title and knowing more success was on the horizon.
In 2002, West thought it would be interesting to run basketball operations for the Memphis Grizzlies, who at the time were the laughing stock of the NBA. After Memphis made three consecutive postseason berths, he left again, this time to retire.
But four years later, the Golden State Warriors called and asked him to become an executive board member. Six years and two championships later, he’s moving on to another situation that piques his interest: a consulting role with the Los Angeles Clippers.
“I am not a conventional person,” West said Monday after being introduced at a press conference in the Clippers training facility. “I leave when things look the best.”
West said he will be with the Clippers for at least two years. His deal is reportedly worth between $4-$5 million per year, according to USA Today.
West also considers himself a man who continuously searches for new opportunities, challenges and adventures.
He was challenged to turn around a 23-win Grizzlies team, and he did that. Memphis won 50 games the following year.
He was challenged when Golden State asked him to come out of retirement to help them build a championship roster. He did that, too, playing a role in the juggernaut that the Warriors are today.
He will be challenged again with a Clippers team that, despite reaching the postseason six consecutive seasons, continues to underachieve and has never made it past the second round of the playoffs.
But while he’s leaving what is arguably a sure thing in the Warriors – who he said will be unbeatable over the next two years if they stay healthy – West said he felt there was “nothing more for me to do” with Golden State.
West’s decision to join the Clippers seemingly lines up with past decisions he’s made in his career. To explain his rationale, West pointed to a quote by Carl Sandburg that says, “Nothing happens unless first we dream.”
“I’ve been a dreamer all my life,” West said.
West joining the Clippers was several years in the making. Clippers head coach Doc Rivers said he started sending out feelers to West after he was hired as president of basketball operations.
“I just thought Jerry would be a perfect fit for me,” Rivers said.
But what sealed the deal for West was the message he got from Clippers owners Steve Ballmer and Dennis Wong.
“I am really sold on this ownership,” West said. “I think they want to establish their own identity in this town, and that’s what, to me, is most important.”
West joins a front-office team of Rivers and Lawrence Frank, executive vice president of basketball operations. Frank praised West’s ability to succeed in multiple areas of basketball, and called him the “ultimate talent architect of all sports.”
“I think the amazing thing about Jerry is it’s amazing to have greatness in a certain era, but to stay relevant is really, really, truly remarkable, and I think Doc and I will really use Jerry as anything,” said Frank, who is entering his second year with the organization. “We’re all in it together. We’re truly a team, so I really look forward to the experience.”
For Rivers, West represents another body that can help him run the Clippers and take the team to the next level.
“I wanna sleep at night,” Rivers said when asked why he wanted West on board. “Lawrence, since hiring him, he’s allowed me to rest more. Now with Jerry … I wanna be able to have a group that I know every night that we have the best group. … I wanted people around me that I felt like could help … the organization win and be great.”
West has a history of striving for greatness. He’s won nine championships as either a player or executive, has won multiple accolades throughout his long career, and, oh yeah, his likeness is represented on the NBA logo.
Now at 79, West is on what he called “the last adventure of my life,” and he has one more chance to make something he’s involved in become great.