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Warriors Make a Legendary Hire

SAN FRANCISCO -- He's always had what was required, as a player with a last-second jump shot - Jerry West wasn't nicknamed "Mr. Clutch for nothing - as an executive with a draft day trade for the rights to Kobe Bryant.

"A tremendous amount of good fortune,'' advised West, "can happen for a risk taker.''

A risk taker who knows the territory, which Jerry West certainly does.

"The Warriors just need some good players,'' he told a journalist some time ago when he was the general manager of the Lakers and seeking Shaquille O'Neal, "but in L.A., because of the market, we always have to have a superstar.''

These days the Lakers have one, Bryant. Now so do the Golden State Warriors, Jerry West.

In a morning press conference Tuesday, Golden State's ambitious new owners, Joe Lacob and Peter Guber, introduced West as an advisor and member of the executive board.

At 72, Jerry isn't going to deliver the key basket. But he might help deliver the man who will. No less importantly, he should give the Warriors, a team which has missed the playoffs 16 of the last 17 seasons, the credibility they've lacked.

West is The Logo, the man dribbling a basketball in silhouette the NBA has long used as its identifying emblem. West is The Legend, the man who scored 25,192 points, was All-NBA first team 10 times and won a championship.

West is the law. "There's a right way to win,'' he said, "and a wrong way to win. I believe in winning with class and losing with class.''

Not that he likes losing, with class or not. "The things that ruin me most are losses,'' he said. "I'm not a great loser, although I know how to lose. Those losses playing for the Lakers against the Celtics in championships (in the 1960s) still bother me to this day.''

West's role with the Warriors will be different from it was with the Lakers, where he was GM or special consultant when the team won six NBA titles, or subsequently the Memphis Grizzlies. He is to be a voice, although hardly one in the wilderness.

"Jerry's at the point in his career where he's done it all," Lacob said. "There's nobody who has done what he's done in his career. I couldn't be more excited to have someone with that kind of experience and integrity to help build this thing into a great championship organization."

Lacob, a Bay Area venture capitalist, said he first met West about 15 years ago while taking part in a fantasy camp where Jerry was coaching. "That's better left unsaid,'' West quipped of Lacob's performance,

The discussions about bringing Jerry to the organization only started in recent months.

The past two years West, a near scratch golfer, has been general chairman of the Northern Trust/LA Open at Riviera Country Club.

"There's no rhyme or reason I should be here,'' West agreed about his new position with the Warriors. "But I was given skills a little different than the average person. I really identify with basketball players, I was watching the Miami Heat-Chicago game the other night, and the intensity had me on the edge of my seat.

"The thing that drives me is passion. I've been blessed with tremendous energy. I think the best thing about life is when somebody feels you can be of help. These are two great men I'm going to be working for. I don't think you can do anything that's right unless you're working with great people.''

West surely is one of the greatest. On court - in 11 games in the 1965 playoffs he averaged 40 points - and off court. The Warriors already had a general manager, Larry Riley, and a new young assistant, Bob Myers. Now they have a Hall of Famer.

"The leadership he brought (to the Lakers) was crucial,'' said Guber, a movie producer and CEO or Mandalay Entertainment. I'm excited about the kind of sprit he brings, attitude not just aptitude.''

The Warriors are without a coach, having released Keith Smart at the end of his first season even though the team appeared to make progress. While West said he will not select the new man, he'll provide input if asked.

"They have to figure out what is best for the players and the future of the organization,'' said West. "I've never believed in revolving coaches.''

He does believe the Warriors' two guards, Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry, although small and similar in style, can work well together. The team needs size up front, said West.

"I would tell you I'm no shrinking violet." West insisted. "I'm not. If you don't want my opinion, don't ask. I would hope our conversation would stimulate and get everybody thinking about what's in the best interest of this team."

Everybody already is, which is why Jerry West was hired.

As a reporter since 1960, Art Spander is a recipient of the Dick McCann Memorial Award -- given for his long and distinguished career covering professional football -- and a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He's also honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award by the PGA of America. His columns appear in RealClearSports on Wednesdays and Fridays.

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