Upon his retirement in 1974, West remained in the Lakers’ fold, and prior to the 1976-77 season, he was appointed as the team’s head coach. Although he was never able to direct the Lakers to a title, the Lakers made the playoffs each year under his watch, and even reached the Western Conference Finals in 1977. He was only the team’s coach for three seasons, but he finished his coaching stint with a 145-101 record during that time, and following his tenure, he remained with the Lakers as a scout until 1982-83, when he became their General Manager.
Under West’s watch as GM, the Lakers managed to capture three titles from 1985 to 1988 (giving them five for the decade) and although the Purple and Gold went through a rough patch during the 1990s, West was the mastermind in setting the Lakers up for their dominating success of the 2000s.
While current General Manager Mitch Kupchak has been largely credited for the Lakers success as of late, none of it would have been possible if not for the foundation set up by West prior to the 1996-97 season – arguably the most influential offseason in Lakers’ history.
Remember Shaquille O’Neal? Three-time NBA champion and Finals MVP as a Laker, one-time regular season MVP and possibly the most dominating center to ever don the Purple and Gold? Yeah, he ended up in Los Angeles somehow, and West was the man behind it all. At 24 years old, O’Neal had already taken the league by storm in his first four years as a member of the Orlando Magic – leading them to the Finals during his third year while averaging a near-league best 29.3 PPG during the regular season.
West didn’t just bring in Shaq that offseason either, that summer he also managed to trade center Vlade Divac for the rights to Kobe Bryant, a trade that is still having exceedingly positive reverberations today. West also found gems in key role players such as Derek Fisher, Rick Fox, Robert Horry, Glen Rice and Ron Harper, all of whom have made major contributions to the Lakers five championship teams since 2000.
After leaving the Lakers in 2002, West was signed on as the Memphis Grizzlies’ new GM, looking to take another franchise from the bottom to the top. “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,” West said of his decision to join the Grizzlies’ front office.
Apparent through his accomplishments off of the court, it’s obvious that West’s contributions to the Lakers franchise have been monumental, to say the least. Therefore, it is only fitting that the man nicknamed “The Logo,” receive a permanent testament to his illustrious career as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers.
The unveiling of his statue is free to the public and will take place at 5 p.m. tonight in Star Plaza outside of STAPLES Center.