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THE INSIDE TRACK | PAGE TWO / RANDY HARVEY

Moncrief? McGee? Benoit? Geniuses Aren't Perfect

September 04, 1998|RANDY HARVEY

If I were starting an NBA franchise, my first hire would be Jerry West as general manager and, if I already owned one and had West as the general manager, there is no chance I would let him leave over something as insignificant as a few million dollars.

Jerry Buss agrees and has put his money where my mouth is.

But, before all this genius talk goes to West's head, he should be reminded of some of his actions that would make even Donald Sterling shake his head.

1. With the Lakers on the verge of drafting Magic Johnson in 1979, he reportedly suggested Sidney Moncrief. West vehemently denies this. Wouldn't you? The best spin you can put on it is to say he preferred Johnson but was playing devil's advocate to justify his consultant's fee.

2. West drafted Mike McGee with a first-round draft choice in 1981 instead of Larry Nance. McGee spent so much of his time in another world that Pat Riley once interrupted practice to tell him, "E.T., phone home."

3. Perhaps believing any coach could win with the talent West provided, he gave the job before the 1993 season to Randy Pfund.

4. West took the fun out of Pfund's job during his first season by trading Sam Perkins for Doug Christie and Benoit Benjamin.

5. Elden Campbell was signed to a seven-year, $49-million deal in 1996. Even with West's new deal, Campbell still makes twice as much as he does.

*

Equal time for West's five best moves:

1. In one of the most bizarre news conferences ever, Buss tried to name West and Riley co-coaches after Paul Westhead was fired in 1981. West insisted that Riley was the coach, agreeing only to fill in temporarily as the "offensive coordinator."

2. With the No. 1 draft choice in 1982, he resisted the temptation to take Dominique "the Human Highlight Film" Wilkins and chose James Worthy.

3. West traded Norm Nixon in 1983 for Byron Scott, which didn't seem to some like such a smart deal at the time. But the Lakers already had a point guard by the name of Johnson and needed an outside shooter.

4. Shaquille O'Neal didn't come just for the money, the movies and music in 1996. He also came because of the chance to rap with West.

5. West gambled big on a high school senior in 1996 and won, acquiring Kobe Bryant in a draft-day trade for Vlade Divac. Sheer genius.

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Who is responsible for the best Laker deal in history, enabling them to draft Johnson with the first pick in '79? . . .

Alan Rothenberg, the lawyer Jack Kent Cooke assigned to get compensation from the New Orleans Jazz for signing Gail Goodrich. . . .

West said his sons, 19 and 10, have become friends with O'Neal. But Shaq isn't allowed to call them this summer because of the NBA lockout. . . .

As of Thursday, West can afford the $1-million fine. . . .

West said he is embarrassed by how much money he now makes, not as embarrassed, though, as when he made only $16,500 in his rookie season with the Lakers. . . .

With Mark McGwire this week, current or former USC athletes have been featured on 72 Sports Illustrated covers. . . .

McGwire eventually will do something Marcia Clark and Christopher Darden couldn't--catch O.J. . . ..

O.J. Simpson was on eight SI covers. McGwire is on five, tied with Tom Seaver among Trojans. . . .

McGwire's first cover was USC's 1984 baseball media guide. The other guy on there with him and Coach Rod Dedeaux is Randy Johnson. . . .

McGwire really did resemble Babe Ruth at USC because he also pitched. . . .

Twice in 1983, in a 3-2 win over Cal Lutheran and a 5-1 win over Westmont, McGwire started and was relieved by Johnson. . . .

The USC assistant coach who recruited McGwire from La Verne's Damien High in 1981 was Marcel Lachemann. . . .

Gary Sheffield was as good as expected on the field and better than expected off it with the Dodgers. . . .

But, considering he made more than $11 million this season, they shouldn't have had to pay for his family's trip to Denver for the All-Star game in order to get him to agree to go. . . .

"He's one of the young up-and-coming GMs in the game," Fred Claire said in 1995 of Kevin Malone, who was then in Montreal. . . .

Now he might be up and coming to take Claire's old job as the Dodger general manager. . . .

Malone once told Christian Magazine in New England, "This game is now controlled by Satan." . . .

That was before Fox bought the Dodgers.

*

While wondering how high they can go, I was thinking: I'm not talking about McGwire and Sammy Sosa but the women's skirts in the U.S. Open; the home run derby is so compelling that no one is paying attention to the NFL openers, not here, anyway.

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