Memphis Grizzlies Announce the Hiring of Jerry West as Franchise’s New President of Basketball Operations
Memphis, Tennessee, April 30, 2002 – The Memphis Grizzlies have announced that former Los Angeles Lakers Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations Jerry West will join the team as President of Basketball Operations.
Gary Colson, one of the most successful coaches in NCAA Division I history with more than 500 career wins, joins West as Assistant to the President of Basketball Operations for the Grizzlies.
“We are extremely pleased to have Jerry (West) join our team. It creates an exciting, new era for the Grizzlies franchise and our great fans in the Memphis area and across the Mid-South,” said Michael Heisley, Grizzlies Majority Owner. “Jerry will be an extremely valuable addition to our organization, because he brings so much to the table as a legendary basketball executive, player and head coach.”
NBA Commissioner David Stern said "Jerry West is recognized as one of the greatest executives in the history of sports as well as one of the best players in our game's history. The Memphis Grizzlies are fortunate to have a person of Jerry's talents and stature, and the NBA is lucky to have Jerry back on a full-time basis."
West is often described simply as a champion (eight NBA championships as an executive, player or special consultant), as a winner (the Lakers averaged 54.2 victories a season and made the playoffs 14 times in a 15-year span with West as front office leader), and as a living legend (named as one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA history). See pages 3-4 for complete biography. Now, he looks to bring the same commitment to achieve success to the Grizzlies.
“I decided to end my retirement and join the Grizzlies for three reasons,” said West. “One, this opportunity gives me a challenge to do something unique. After being a part of the Lakers success for so many years, I have always wondered how it would be to build a winning franchise that has not experienced much success. I want to help make a difference. Two, who you work for makes a huge difference in enjoying your job, and I have been so impressed with Mike (Heisley). He wants to win so much and is committed to creating a winner for Memphis. And three, retirement is not what I thought it would be. Watching NBA games in the last year has rekindled my interest, and I am excited again about being involved in basketball - something that I love to do so much.”
As an executive, West served as the Lakers’ top decision-maker and guided his team with shrewd personnel moves and trades to four NBA championships (1985, ’87, ’88 and ‘00) and eight trips to the NBA Finals during a prosperous 19-year stint as both general manager (1982-1994) and executive vice president of basketball operations (1995-2000). He was named NBA Executive of the Year for the first time after the 1994-95 season. In addition, West helped lead the Lakers to three more NBA championships (1980, ’82 and ’01) while serving a key leadership role as the team’s special consultant for basketball operations.
As a player, West played 14 legendary seasons as a shooting guard with the Lakers and was named one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA history during the league’s 50th Anniversary Season in 1996-‘97. Appropriately dubbed as “Mr. Clutch” because of his uncanny ability to produce key performances with the game on the line, West was named NBA Finals MVP in 1969 and then led the Lakers to their first world championship in Los Angeles in 1972. He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1979, and his #44 jersey was retired by the Lakers on Nov. 9, 1983.
Among his numerous honors, West was a 14-time NBA All-Star, ten-time All-NBA First Team and four-time NBA All-Defensive First Team. He averaged 27.0 points per game over his career and holds the league record for highest scoring average in the playoffs for one season, 40.6 (1965) and single-series playoff record for highest points-per-game average, 46.3 against Baltimore (’65).
As a coach, West led the Lakers to an NBA-best 53-29 record during the 1976-77 campaign and qualified for the playoffs for the first of 17 consecutive seasons. The Lakers posted a 145-101 record (.589) during his three seasons as coach. Following his coaching stint, West spent three years as a special consultant with the Lakers (1979-82). He was elevated to general manager of the club prior to the 1982-83 campaign, where he handled day-to-day operations and all player personnel decisions. He continued to perform those and other duties for eight years as executive vice president of basketball operations until his retirement from daily duties with the Lakers in 2000. He has served as a special consultant with the Lakers until his agreement to join the Grizzlies. Read more about Jerry West's career highlights and statistics here.
Jerry and his wife, Karen, have two sons, Ryan and Jonnie. Jerry has three other sons, David, Mark and Michael, from a previous marriage. He also has an infant grandson, Andrew West.
Watch the Jerry West Press Conference Video - April 30, 2002