West Helped Wolves Kick Off Inaugural 1989-90 Campaign
West Helped Wolves Kick Off Inaugural 1989-90 Campaign
Doug West spent nine of his 12 NBA seasons with the Timberwolves and was part of many firsts for the organization. (Photo Credit: Lou Capozzola/NBAE/Getty Images)
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Everything was new for Doug West in November 1989. He was beginning his first month as an NBA player for a team beginning its first regular season. He played his first home game in the league at the Metrodome—on Nov. 8, 1989, against Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. For a guy who came into the league as the 38th overall pick that June, everything was a new experience.
Including his initial impressions of his new home.
“When I first got to Minnesota, I was terrified because everyone was so nice,” said West, a Pennsylvania native who played his college ball at Villanova. “I went to college in Philadelphia and back then people didn’t really speak and weren’t as happy as the people I met in Minnesota.”
But West got used to it quickly, and over the course of the next decade Timberwolves fans got to know him as a staple of the organization. West was part of the Wolves’ first nine seasons, playing through the early Bill Musselman era, the bridge in the early-1990s highlighted by J.R. Rider and Christian Laettner and the early playoff years led by Kevin Garnett and Flip Saunders.
He was, and forever will be, part of a fraternity of Timberwolves players who helped shape this team’s identity over the past 25 years.
“I follow the team now just as I have since I was a member,” West said. “I think when you are part of an inaugural team, you always have a connection.”
West was there when the Wolves drew more than 1 million fans at the Dome in their inaugural 1989-90 season. He kicked off his career by contributing just 2.6 points and 1.3 rebounds per contest in 7.3 minutes per game—including two points, one rebound, one block and one steal in that 96-84 home-opener loss to the Bulls on Nov. 8—but quickly solidified himself as a viable scoring option. By his fourth season, he was averaging 19.3 points per game and started 80 contests.
As the games went by and the seasons went on, West continued to find his niche on the court. A big reason for that was his dedication the team and to his workout regimen.
“My biggest thought was that I always had to be in better condition than the guy next to me, or pretty much anyone on the floor,” West said. “I felt if I could run the floor and make my guy run, it would tire him out. I had a lot of nightmares before games, knowing that every game I was guarding guys like Jordan, (Reggie) Miller, (Mitch) Richmond, (Chris) Mullin, (Clyde) Drexler, (Jeff) Hornacek, and other great names.”
During that inaugural season, the Wolves began building character under Musselman and early leaders like Tony Campbell and Tyrone Corbin. Those two were the team’s leading scorers and brought a combined nine years of NBA experience to this new Wolves team. Campbell started his career in Detroit in 1984 and was selected by Minnesota in the 1989 expansion draft. He averaged 23.2 points per game in that 1989-90 season. Crobin was drafted by San Antonio in 1985 and was also taken in the expansion draft. He led the team and established career-highs in rebounds (7.4) and steals (2.13) during the inaugural year.
The impressions those two left on West carried on long after the two left the Wolves organization.
“I took to Tyrone Corbin early in my career,” West said. “Tyrone’s family opened their doors up to me and allowed me in their home. He showed me how to train in the offseason.”
That first year was full of lessons and some trying times—the team went 22-60 but felt as though they came together as a group “full of vagabonds, long shots and characters.”
That helped build a foundation or things to come. By the team’s eighth season, it clinched its first-ever playoff berth under coach Flip Saunders. That team went 40-42 and finished third in the Midwest Division.
“One of the best memories I have is clinching a playoff berth for the first time,” West said.
That team was swept 3-0 by Houston, but West held his own averaging 11 points per game. The next season (197-98) was his last with the Wolves. That club went 45-37 and lost in the Western Conference Quarterfinals 3-2 against the Seattle SuperSonics. West went on to finish his final two years of his career with the Vancouver Grizzlies.
West looks back fondly on the years he spent in Minnesota, where he grew up as a basketball player and was part of almost every first this team has experienced.
“The organization through both ownership groups was professional and fair,” West said. “I’m sure we all learned a lot through the process. It was a joy to play and be part of the Timberwolves organization.”
West racked up 6,477 points, 1,670 rebounds and 1,292 assists in his career. In team history, he still ranks second in games started, third in steals, minutes and games played and fourth in total points, field goals made and field goals attempted.
Since he retired in 2001, he has coached high school basketball in Pennsylvania, college basketball at Duquesne University and Villanova, and in the NBA Development League. Last season, his Rio Grande Valley Vipers won the D-League title.
Now, West said he’s going to spend this winter watching his son, Tyson, play basketball and watch his daughter, Braedyn, cheer. In the meantime, he hopes to scout and help teach kids the game he loves.
Although West no longer resides in Minnesota, he will always be an original Timberwolves player. And he’ll always be a die-hard fan of the team.
He’s come a long way since that opening night at the Metrodome in 1989.
“I feel just making the team and being part of the organization for so many years was a huge accomplishment,” West said. “I learned a lot and grew as a man in a state and city I never thought possible.
“I feel the team as built today is very strong. Minnesota and the Timberwolves will always be special.”