Phil Jackson, who is heralded as one of the greatest NBA coaches of all-time, once asked the basketball logo Jerry West to leave the Lakers’ locker room after a game in 2000. The game which West was asked to exit from the locker room was not specified, but it is believed to be Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals against the Portland Trail Blazers. (via Eric Pincus.)
“The Lakers were really struggling, not enjoying playing together,” said Jackson. “The last five minutes of the game were arduous and painful — so I kicked everybody out of the locker room.”
Jackson replayed the situation from his memory to a crowd at the Alex Theatre in Glendale, California at an event called Live Talks Los Angeles. Phil was interviewed by former NBA player and a member of the 2000 Lakers championship squad, John Salley. An audience member asked Phil Jackson a question about his relationship with Jerry West and this was his reply.
“Jerry and [then-assistant general manager] Mitch Kupchak would come into the locker room afterward … but I wanted it to be just us,” continued Jackson. “So I asked everybody to leave and then I addressed the team and asked them what happened out there on the floor.”
Jackson felt that the team was not taking the magnitude of the series serious enough and that his team was joking around too much. Jackson had to corral his team and get their minds right and focus on the task at hand, which was eliminating the Trail Blazers. Eventually the Lakers won the series in seven games and advanced to the NBA Finals. The Lakers went on to beat the Pacers in 2000 for their first of three back to back to back NBA championships.
“In the process, I know Jerry was hurt by me asking him to leave the room,” Jackson said. “It has always been what I’ve done any time it got intimate or personal, to ask people that were outside, trainers and ball boys in particular.”
West, however was not an outsider or just another ball boy, but a Lakers legend and franchise staple. West was a 14-time NBA All-Star, NBA Finals MVP (1969), and NBA champion (1972).
West recalls his relationship with Phil Jackson as follows:
It didn’t feel very good when someone would walk right by me and not even acknowledge you’re there. But that’s Phil,” said West. “Frankly you start to feel under-appreciated and undervalued.”
Jackson said that he did not have anything against West, but that the team was practicing at South West College, while waiting for the completion of their new facility in Staples Center. He said he was not trying to avoid West or ignore him, but that he never saw him because their offices were completely far apart.
“We always had a relationship that was a good business relationship but we didn’t have a social relationship at all at the time,” Jackson said.
The saga of the Jackson/West drama is your typical Hollywood/daytime soap opera television story. Only in LA will a story of two high profile basketball minds remain a story 13 years later.
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