Memories flowed freely in a relaxed Jerry West’s mind while in town over the weekend.

The greatest basketball player in West Virginia University’s history recalled some of those for a small gathering of media types.

That was shortly after he had completed his address to the school’s 2006 graduating class at the Coliseum.

Among those memories, West said he will never forget the day he started his three-year record-smashing varsity career on the court as a Mountaineer superstar.

“It was an incredible feeling,” he recalled. “I only wish people knew what it was like to be an athlete.”

And he certainly was one who played the game as something of a perfectionist at the highest level.

“It’s amazing what your body feels like,” said West, who retired as a player in 1974 after 14 years in the NBA. “It’s amazing.

“I don’t have that feeling anymore. It’s something I truly miss. When I go back and look at pictures, I think it was a hell of a journey.

“That was the period of the Cold War and you felt like you were going to war.”

He recalled playing on the United States’ gold-medal basketball team in the 1960 Olympic Games. He and Cincinnati’s Oscar Robertson were co-captains of that talent-laden club.

“We played against the Russians (among others), and they weren’t going to beat us,” West said. “We were just a dominating team.”

Indeed, the Americans whipped most countries by as many as 42-46 points.

West recalled that he was really nervous - but extremely proud - standing up there as the National Anthem was played during the awards ceremony.

“I was brought up to respect people, and I was brought up to respect our country,” he said. “It was a great feeling.”

West was close to people who served their country in the military. In fact, he had a brother who was killed in the Korean War.

“(Winning the gold medal) was more significant for me than maybe anything,” he said. “But today was an extremely special day.

“I’m near the end of my journey. And I guess I want to sort of disappear and live my life.”

He said he is tired of living in a fishbowl.



o West, now the proud possessor of an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree, thinks it’s wonderful to see WVU expand.

It had just one campus when he was a student from 1957-60. Now it covers three campuses.

“Obviously, sports have been my way through life to get to this point,” he said. “And it’s fun to watch the university grow.”

He’s especially impressed by the recent successes of both the football and basketball programs.

West praised head coaches Rich Rodriguez and John Beilein. While he doesn’t know the gridmaster, he admittedly is thrilled by the job he’s doing.

“I do know Coach Beilein,” he said. “He’s a great coach and a great person.

“He needs the support up here that he deserves. And it’s fun for me to see and watch the university grow.

“There are some good things about getting old - some really good things.”

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