The Times West Virginian

Mickey Furfari

January 22, 2014

FURFARI COLUMN: Jerry West: ‘Coaches really emphasize defense’

MORGANTOWN — Hall of Famer Jerry West had some interesting observations about college basketball in a recent telephone interview.

“It’s a different type of game today,” he said when asked why most shooters today do not have the consistency percentage-wise as when he played back in 1950s, ’60s and ’70s.

“Coaches really emphasize defense today. They also put more emphasis on athleticism. It’s not only different but a more difficult game.”

West, the greatest player in West Virginia University basketball history, said players are scouted so differently and more thoroughly today.

“When you get somebody who can really shoot the ball, it’s a tremendous weapon,” he added.

While the 3-point shot was added many years after the superstar retired as a player in 1974, he noted that it changed the game notably. And some kids just don’t shoot the ball well from back there.

Of course, this lowers shooting percentages, too, from West’s years.

“And then you have a lot of driving from kids who have trouble holding onto the ball,” West said. “So it’s a different kind of game than it used to be.”

West, who’s now in his third year with NBA’s title-contending Golden State Warriors, also pointed out that coaches find new ways to eliminate an opposing team’s offensive opportunities.

“You can shoot the ball better,” he continued. “But you’ve got to do a really good job of offensive and defensive rebounding for other reasons.

“I don’t understand this, but there seems to be a lot of really poor free-throw shooting, even at the NBA level. And that tells me the competition isn’t very good.”

West, who as only a three-year Mountaineer varsity player, still is the WVU program’s No.1 all-time leading scorer and rebounder at 6-foot-3, recalled that he felt he could run faster and jump higher than any opponent he faced.

No doubt about that to anyone who saw him perform here or from 1960-74 as an NBA superstar.

“There’s so much more pressure on players when their team isn’t shooting very well,” he stated. “But it’s so much easier to play defense when you take the ball off the basket.”

West thinks you’ve got to give coaches a lot of credit because they teach a lot of effective defenses today. It was a different kind of defense when he played basketball.

“Today we see a lot of athletes like that defensively,” West noted. “But those athletes don’t have the offensive game to complement it.

“Coaches win games on defense. Coaches win games that are kept close. Keeping a game close, you obviously have a chance to win, particularly on the road.”

West, in his role with the vastly improved Golden State Warriors, sees most of the nation’s better college players. And he said some of them don’t really shoot the ball well at times.

Asked whether he had any suggestions, West replied:

“My suggestion would be to find people who know a little bit about shooting and try to get kids to work with the coaches, and just keep trying to make them better.

“Obviously, all coaches want teams that really can shoot the ball.”

He emphasized also that players should work on their weaknesses as well as their strengths.

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Mickey Furfari
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