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Eric Hasseltine and Chris Vernon Remember Jerry West’s Days as General Manager of the Memphis Grizzlies

Jerry West, aka “Mr. Clutch,” aka “The Logo,” passed away this morning at the age of 86. West is a 3-time Hall of Fame selection, inducted as a player in 1980, as a member of the 1960 US Olympic Team in 2010 and he will be enshrined again later this year as a contributor. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said West was “one of the greatest executives in sports history.”

West played for, coached, scouted for and was the General Manager of the Los Angeles Lakers, however in 2002, the first team he worked for other than the Lakers became the Memphis Grizzlies.

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At the time West arrived, both Chris Vernon and Eric Hasseltine were a part of Sports 56 WHBQ in Memphis. Hasseltine was the pre-game, halftime and post-game host for the Grizzlies Radio Network and did a daily show. Vernon hosted middays and was also around the team quite a bit, covering games, practices and any other media availability with the team.

These days, Vernon hosts the Chris Vernon Show on Grizzlies-owned Grind City Media and also works as an analyst on the Memphis Grizzlies television pre- and post-game shows. Hasseltine has been the radio play-by-play voice of the team since 2005 and also serves as the team’s Radio Operations Manager.

BSM asked Hasseltine about his first impressions of West when he joined the organization. “The first time you meet him, you’re in awe. He was such a fiery competitor. He was everything you heard about him, he hated to lose.”

Hasseltine said West was very good to him as a member of the radio team and also said, “He was as excited as anybody when the team won, and as angry as anybody when they lost.”

Hasseltine said he remembers vividly when the team started to turn the corner after West had arrived. He said ‘The Logo’ would often ask he and his broadcasting partner at the time, Sean Tuohy, “How much fun are you guys having?”

“Jerry West always wanted to be competing,” Hasseltine added. “He loved basketball, and he loved putting together teams and seeing things in players others didn’t see.” Hasseltine said just his presence made a difference and that if West walked into a practice, “The players played harder, they wanted to prove to him they deserved to be there.”

On the Chris Vernon Show today, Vernon said, “[Jerry West] gave us instant credibility and he ran the show.” He talked about West going out on a limb hiring Hubie Brown and how he was the one ultimately responsible for getting people interested in the team and attendance rising.

Vernon, who actually does his show today from what used to be West’s office, added, “He was always cool to me.”

Vernon shared stories about people seeing West around town, often finding him at a bar with a glass of wine after a Grizzlies game. He said, if the outcome wasn’t good, people would hear West “bitching about the Grizzlies.”

West retired in 2007, although he would later also work for the Golden State Warriors and the Los Angeles Clippers.

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