<
>

Jerry West and Phil Jackson: Oil and Water

Of course, you know about the excitement over the last few days, in which Kobe Bryant has made clear that he'd really really really like Jerry West to join him once again in Los Angeles.

And, at the above link, ESPN's Marc Stein has reported that it's entirely possible West will return in some capacity -- but not likely full time.

What I'm curious about is: how's Jerry West's relationship with Phil Jackson?

In Roland Lazenby's excellent book about the Lakers, "The Show," Lazenby cites many sources saying that during the Lakers 2000 Western Conference Finals against the Blazers, Jackson reportedly asked West to leave the locker room at one point so he could address the players in private.

Remember, these are Jerry West's Lakers ... the team he put together long before Phil Jackson blew into town. Lazenby interviews people who suggest that moment was one harsh moment of many between the two men, and precipitated West's departure a few months later.

Phil Jackson's assistant Tex Winter and former Laker coach Del Harris are among those who talked to Lazenby:

Winter said Jackson had calculated that West's pride would be hurt by Jackson requesting that he step out of the Lakers' locker room so that the coach could have a word with the team. It was seemingly a subtle thing, yet its implications rang like a hammer through the organization. By doing it, Jackson had sent this message: Jerry West, who had lived and breathed the Lakers for 40 years, was not part of the team. The coach, it seemed, had found the perfect way to nudge West out of the organization. As coach of the Bulls, Jackson had used a similar technique and called it "setting boundaries." Only a few were allowed inside the team circle. In L.A., West was no longer one of them.

Del Harris, former Lakers coach: "Only someone with six rings could have done it. I don't know if it was so much Phil as it was his status. I don't know that needed to be done. I always felt Jerry was a plus for us, not only by getting the players there. Yes, the Lakers had always been Jerry's team, but if there were other issues that came up, I could always count on Jerry ... it's true that Jerry's involvement was a factor, but I didn't necessarily see it as a negative thing."

Lazenby goes on to say that West departed not long thereafter with a statement that thanked many in the organization but failed to even mention the coach who had just led his team to a title.

I wonder if the Jackson and West have patched things up in a meaningful way. And if not, assuming the tale above is true, is it even feasible for West to play any role with the Lakers? From the outside, they already a confusing power structure, and consultant West would not make things any clearer.

Kobe Bryant (loyal, it would appear, to West), Phil Jackson, Jerry Buss (loyal, it would appear, to Bryant), Jim Buss, Mitch Kupchak (West's former understudy, who has apparently integrated peacefully with Jackson), and then West too? If Jim Buss, Phil Jackson, Mitch Kupchak, and Jerry West all have different ideas about who the team should draft, who wins?