The Times West Virginian

Sports

May 14, 2014

FURFARI COLUMN: Jerry West still has work to do with Golden State Warriors

MORGANTOWN — Thanks mainly to the legendary Jerry West, the Golden State Warriors have become a contender the past two years in the National Basketball Association.

But recently published turmoil affecting that franchise indicates that West still faces more work out there. West Virginia’s greatest basketball player in history is heading into a third year as an administrator at Golden State.

While West was not mentioned in the story I saw, Mark Jackson was fired as head coach of the Warriors last week.

Jackson departed after compiling a 121-109 record for his three seasons there. The Warriors advanced to the second round of the NBA playoffs in 2013 after upsetting the Nuggets. Then they were within a game of pulling off the same feat this year, despite not having center Andrew Bogut because of injury.

However, turmoil developed and reportedly surrounded coach Jackson outside of the Golden State locker room. Two assistant coaches were fired or resigned during the season.

It also has been noted that Jackson’s relationship with Joe Lacon, one of the team’s owners, has been “frosty” dating back to 2012.

Obviously, I didn’t know how deeply Jerry West has been involved in this matter. Since May 20, 2011, he has served as a consultant and as minority owner of the Golden State organization.

So the Cabin Creek native undoubtedly is well aware of what’s going on. Moreover, my firm feeling is that he will be the man who comes up with the right answers – and soon.

West, an NBA Executive of the Year, has to be the most knowledgeable and respected basketball authority I’ve ever met in 70 years of sports writing. He’s a great gentleman, too.

Under his direction, Golden State made significant strides the past two years with player moves. The Warriors had only won more than 42 games once since 1994.

But they posted 47 victories in 2012-13 and 51 during the past season. West told me happily in an interview a few months ago that he was pleased and proud of the team’s significant progress.

No one in the history of West Virginia University basketball has come close to what Jerry West achieved while here in three years – not four. The NCAA ridiculously required one year on a freshman team.

West, who turns 74 on May 28, was a superstar on teams in 1957-58, 58-59 and 59-60.

Coached by Fred Schaus, those combined for a fantastic record of 81-12. For those years, that averaged out to 27 wins and four losses a season.

West, 6-foot-3 and 180 pounds, established 17 school records leading the Mountaineers to team marks of 26-2, 29-5 and 26-5.

In the process, West & Co. started a 44-game Southern Conference winning streak. It also captured three league regular-season and S.C. tourney titles and earned as many berths in the NCAA playoffs.

West, a second-team All-America selection as a sophomore, made nine All-America first teams in both his junior and senior seasons.

Then he went on to star in the Pan American Games and, as co-captains with Cincinnati’s Oscar Robertson, led the USA to a 5-0 sweep in the 1960 Olympic Games to win the gold medal against Russia in Rome, Italy.

Jerry West was the most graceful basketball performer, with the largest leap and reach, I’ve ever seen.

It was the peak of perfection.

He went on to excel as a superstar with the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA for 14 years.

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