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Pat Riley Praises Long-Time Friend And Colleague Jerry West, Who Anointed Him Lakers Head Coach

Former Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat head coach turned Heat executive Pat Riley has sent out a lengthy homage to Jerry West, who died today.

The two were involved in one of the most bizarre moments in Lakers history.

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In 1981, owner Jerry Buss held a confusing press conference in which he sought to explain he was splitting the coaching role between West and then-assistant Pat Riley.

West wasn’t having it. He took the microphone and anointed Riley, saying that he (West) worked for Riley.

Today, Riley remembered his old friend.

“I loved Jerry West! We loved being Lakers together; it was sacred ground. We grew in life with each other and shared the best and worst of times together. We can only hope there is someone we meet during a crucial time in our lives that will change you in ways you could dream about. Jerry was that person for me.

“Today’s sad, sad news about his passing brought back many of those special moments with Jerry. Those beautiful memories came in a waterfall of tears; all coming so fast, so vivid, so etched in my mind. It was like yesterday after a shootaround at The Forum that we’d hustle to Hollis Johnson’s drugstore in Westwood to eat the best burgers, drink milkshakes and savor a great custard pudding with fresh whipped cream before we headed home to nap.

“Then it was game time and Jerry would kick ass in a way that was so skilled and relentless. I was so proud to be there in his presence. I watched, I learned. He made me believe. Being in that aura of greatness was mesmerizing. I was told, ‘Pat, Just watch him and model yourself after Jerry.’ He was smart, committed, opinionated, fearless, generous, ultra-competitive, stubborn, but with great grace. These were just some of the characteristics he embedded in my psyche. They emerged at the right time, honed by many years of self-talking Jerry reminders. Jerry kicked down that coaching door for me and said, you can do this, but it has to be now. He knew, then he let me coach. I thank him forever and always for giving me that opportunity.

“Chris and I pray the Good Lord will look after Karen and his family during this most difficult time. May peace be with them. And Jerry, one day, my good friend, we will meet again. Just save me a burger, milkshake and custard with whipped cream. The best lunch I ever had. Until then, Rest in Peace.”

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