Jerry West recently re-upped to remain with the Clippers, much like every other member of the team’s front office who chose to stick around in Los Angeles this offseason. In an interview with Tim Kawakami of The Athletic, West explained what it is that makes this front office so special.
The first reason West identified is ownership, and the Clippers have one of the great owners in the league in Steve Ballmer. He is the team’s biggest fan, he will spend whatever it takes for the team, and he is also willing to invest in the surrounding community. As West said:
“I always think ownership’s such a big part of success in this league. You look at this owner, Steve Ballmer. First of all, he’s one of the nicest men I’ve ever been around in my life. Unbelievably philanthropic. He is really genuine, there’s nothing phony about him. He has a tremendous amount of passion. He’s an ideal owner to have, an absolutely ideal owner to have.”
The next ingredient to LA’s success is collaboration and the ability for everyone to share their opinion. West points out that even though the Clippers have a ton of people working in the front office, they all have an opportunity to contribute their point of view because the team understands the importance of communication.
“There’s nothing that goes undone with this franchise in terms of work ethic. I’ve never seen people work so hard. Our meetings are filled with people expressing their own opinions. I think it’s healthy. I watch people say there should be only one voice — at the end of the day, there should be only one voice, I agree there. But in your meetings you have a right to dissent, and we have a lot of people that dissent.”
That type of work environment wouldn’t really make a difference if the people in charge weren’t capable, but as West notes, that isn’t the case in Los Angeles. Another piece of the Clippers puzzle is that Lawrence Frank is so good at his job. When it comes to decision-making, Frank has the last word, and his institutional knowledge of the league makes him the right fit.
“At the end of the day, Lawrence Frank’s going to make the call, and I really like working with him. He’s smart, flies under the radar, which I think is very important. And he has great relationships with people, both on a coaching front and, more importantly, agents.”
The Clippers have one more important person in management: head coach Doc Rivers. Rivers was recognized as a top-3 finalist for NBA Coach of the Year, and West added to the chorus of praise Doc has received for his season:
“He’s done a helluva job here. I think it’s been surprisingly good. I think he’s very happy here, and he has kinda the right stuff for these players. He can be tough when he needs to be tough, but he will ignore things that are just part of the game of basketball.”
All of that adds up to “one of the best front offices ever”, as West said. At the age of 80, West says working in this terrific organization has “re-energized” him. It’s why he is still part of the team, trying to build a championship contender.
In order to do that, West believes the team still needs one ace in the hole, the type of talent who can dominate the game by himself. He doesn’t want to promise anything, but he believes the team is well-positioned to acquire that kind of player if not this year, then in the upcoming seasons.
The Clippers front office has gotten a lot of praise throughout the year for the deals they have made to upgrade the roster for both the present and the future. It’s interesting to hear one of the most successful executives in league history identify the elements that make that possible.