We know his life to be charmed.
Jerry West grew up in West Virginia, led the West Virginia University basketball team in one of its most successful times and became the symbol of the National Basketball Association as he thrived on the court as a player and off as a general manager.
But, he says, there were torments and dark days, as there so often are in the lives of the talented.
West will sit down and discuss with his alma mater what it was like when the sun shined on him and when its rays were absent from his life. The event will be interview-style with WVU Athletic Director Oliver Luck asking West questions onstage. West will speak as part of the David C. Hardesty Jr. Festival of Ideas on Oct. 24 at 7:30 p.m. in the WVU Coliseum on his new book West by West: My Charmed, Tormented Life.
A book signing will follow in the Jerry West Lounge. Copies of the book will be on sale at the event through the WVU Barnes & Noble Bookstore.
Called a confession and painful by reviewers, West’s autobiography gives readers an inside glimpse of the man who entranced the American sports world for years.
His reflective autobiography describes the challenges he faced, including depression, the death of his older brother and his father’s abusive behavior.
West grew up in Chelyan, a town of several hundred in southern West Virginia. He describes himself as shy and introverted growing up, as well as determined to play basketball.
“I spent much of my spare time shooting at a hoop nailed to a neighbor’s storage shed,” West said when he visited WVU last year. “I played incessantly, in the cold and the twilight, and then listened in bed to Mountaineer radio broadcasts. I was so preoccupied with playing my own private game that I often forgot to eat. I didn’t weigh much to begin with, and so I had to take vitamin injections to preserve my health.”
West, known as “Mr. Clutch,” played three seasons for the Mountaineers at a time when freshmen were not eligible to play. He is WVU’s all-time career scoring leader and career rebounder and set 12 school records. A two-time All-American, he averaged 24.8 points per game. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in physical education. He led the Mountaineers to the 1959 National Championship where the team lost to California by one point.
When the 1960 NBA draft came around, he was the first pick of the Los Angeles Lakers. But even before that, he came out on top as the co-captain of the gold medal-winning U.S. basketball team in the Rome Olympics of 1960 and as a college junior was part of the U.S. team that brought home the gold medal from the Pan American Games.
In his 14-year NBA career with the Lakers, West scored 25,192 points, making him the sixth highest scorer in NBA history. He and the Lakers went to the NBA finals nine times and took home the championship in 1972.
When West retired from basketball, he coached the Lakers for three years starting in 1976. He spent another three years as special consultant to the club, scouting college players. In 1982 he became the Lakers’ general manager. With West at the helm of the Lakers, the team won eight world championships.
In 2002, he became president of basketball operations for the Memphis Grizzlies before retiring in 2007. This year he was named to the executive board of the Golden State Warriors basketball team in Oakland, Calif.
He was elected to the NBA Hall of Fame in 1979.
His son, Jonnie, graduated WVU in 2010 with a degree in sport management and with his Master of Business Administration in August 2011.
Before West arrives at WVU, he will be speaking at the West Virginia Book Festival in the Charleston Civic Center on Oct. 22.
CONTACT: Gretchen Hoover, University Events
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