There Will Never Be Another Jerry West

Arrive at work at 9 am, check social media for friends, and plan an early afternoon dog walk. I was thinking that when my supervisor, Michael Fragale, came into the office to tell me Jerry West had died.  

"Get to work," he said. Imagine a basketball flying through your front window! As the department's obituary writer, you routinely prepare for the death of a school legend. 

Before their deaths, Hot Rod Hundley and Sam Huff were in poor condition. hat about Jerry West, who was always energetic and vibrant? Until then, Peter Pans live.  

Starting with a man who accomplished so much? What do you include and exclude? Everything Jerry West accomplished in his 86 years on Earth cannot be written about in a short time.  

How can you sum up what he meant to West Virginians and West Virginia University fans? To whom do you talk when he meant so much to everyone?  

Starting with a file cabinet of interviews, including some with West, is where I start when I don't know where I'm headed. I interviewed him six times via transcribed phone calls spanning 20–30 minutes.    

Some folks will give you 10–15 minutes before losing interest and wanting to move on to other tasks. People below me have done that to me.  

But not Jerry. My questions concerning WVU and his Mountaineer basketball players were always answered. I immediately noticed Jerry's comments on his excellent friend Willie Akers or his classmates were fascinating.    

I remember asking him why the state had so many great basketball players in the mid-1950s when he played at East Bank High.   

Told him the story Eddie Barrett told me Virginia Tech coach Chuck Noe saw 40s and 50s in Virginia high school box scores and 80s and 90s in West Virginia and wanted West Virginia athletes.    

That naturally energized Jerry. "We played the Kentucky all-star team, and they were supposed to have the best players in America," told. We had superior players. Both times we won. WV had wonderful men.    

“Style of play was a big part of it,” West said. "Some instructors were more restricted than others. Many coaches' coaching styles come from their playing coaches.  

Maryland played a slow game when I was recruited for college, and I liked the school, but I couldn't play there. I didn't think playing like that would be pleasant."  

After retiring, West Virginia coach Fred Schaus and first-time assistant coach George King were young and athletic enough to provide the players advise and ways other coaches couldn't.