Source: Jerry West to Run Grizzlies

Tuesday, April 30th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Jerry West, architect of the Los Angeles Lakers' team going for its third straight NBA title, has agreed to run the Memphis Grizzlies, a source close to the Lakers said Monday.

The Grizzlies announced plans to hold ``a special press conference to make a significant announcement'' Tuesday, but they wouldn't elaborate further.

On condition of anonymity, the source said West agreed to leave his $1 million-a-year job as a Lakers consultant to work for the Grizzlies.

Memphis had been pursuing the former NBA great for weeks, hoping to hire him as head of basketball operations. The team fired general manager Billy Knight this month.

Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley, reached through his office in Chicago, refused comment except to say he would attend the news conference.

``Yes, I'm going to be there,'' he said.

West's new job figures to be quite a challenge. Formed as an expansion team in 1995, the Grizzlies, who moved from Vancouver to Memphis before this season, have never come close to making the playoffs. Their 23-59 record this season tied for the best in franchise history.

West seldom gives interviews and is known for having a difficult time making up his mind.

When he retired as the Lakers' head of basketball operations in August 2000, his successor, Mitch Kupchak, recalled the many threats West made to leave the job before finally deciding to go.

``Part of me tends to look at that door over there and see Jerry's face come out and say, 'I'm only kidding,''' Kupchak said at the time. ``He's not kidding. Today's that day.''

West, who turns 64 next month, joined the Lakers in 1960 as a first-round draft choice out of West Virginia, and established himself as an all-time great, averaging 25 points before retiring in 1974. He won one championship as a player _ in 1972 _ and six more while running the Lakers.

West was held in such high regard by the NBA that he was used as the silhouette for the league's logo. He was enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1979 and the Lakers retired his No. 44 jersey four years later.

West spent two years away from the game before replacing Bill Sharman as coach of the Lakers before the 1976-77 season. He spent three years as coach and three more as a special consultant with the team before being promoted to general manager in 1982.

West signed Shaquille O'Neal to a long-term contract in July 1996 shortly after acquiring the draft rights to Kobe Bryant from Charlotte for Vlade Divac.