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Monday, October 31, 2005
Grizzlies officially extend West's contract two years

Associated Press

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Jerry West signed a two-year contract extension Monday, agreeing to remain through 2008 as president of the Memphis Grizzlies.

West came out of retirement three years ago to join the Grizzlies after spending almost four decades with the Los Angeles Lakers as player, coach and executive. He was in the last year of a four-year agreement with Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley.

"I've retired once and it didn't do very well for me," West said. "This is a life that I know well."

In Memphis, West created a team that topped a franchise-best 28 victories with 50 wins in 2003-04 to make a first trip to the NBA playoffs. The Grizzlies also made the playoffs last season but were swept for the second time as tensions rose between coach Mike Fratello and key players.

West rebuilt the Grizzlies in the offseason, removing Jason Williams, Bonzi Wells, Earl Watson and James Posey and bringing in NBA veterans Damon Stoudamire, Eddie Jones and Bobby Jackson.

"Coming here to practice is a pleasure this year. It's really a pleasure," West said as he waited for an after-practice talk with players.

"We have a veteran group of guys who have been extremely helpful to our younger players," West added. "But more importantly, they brought something here that's contagious. When you walk in, you see a lot of happy faces. Our coaches are smiling."

West said the goal is clear this season.

"Win a playoff series," he said.

West retired as general manager of the Lakers in 2000. When he joined the Grizzlies, he said he found retirement boring.

"This franchise has been important to me," he said. "And it's much more important now than when I first got here because, you know, I'm so familiar with everyone. We've got a great group of people to work with."

Fratello was persuaded to leave broadcasting and return to coaching by West in December 2004. He replaced Hubie Brown, who retired after he was brought to Memphis by West in 2002.

Fratello was leaving the practice court when he heard about the contact extension.

"I know the team will love to hear that," he said. "I think our players really trust in Jerry, trust in the fact that he will continue to keep this team in the playoff-competition mode of not letting us slide."

Mike Miller, traded from Orlando to Memphis in 2003, said he and the other Grizzlies were pleased with West's decision.

"When I got traded, one of the things I was excited about was having him here," he said. "So now we know we've got him for at least a couple of more years."