‘Mr. Clutch' Takes A Shot At Philosophy

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Jerry West is now holding court in a new arena: philosophy.

The former West Virginia University basketball standout who went on to a stellar career in the NBA has joined the ranks of Mountaineer sports luminaries weighing in on THE QUESTION.

That's the deep-thinking exercise fronted by the WVU Department of Philosophy that's receiving national notice - most recently in this week's edition of Sports Illustrated, which profiled the project after the attention it garnered during the Mountaineers' football moment at the Gator Bowl in Florida three weeks ago.

Philosophy chair and QUESTION creator Sharon Ryan wielded a camcorder and curiosity to get football coach Rich Rodriguez and other WVU coaches and athletes to consider the query, "Is winning everything?"

In his response, West said that while everyone loves a winner, society mistakenly equates achievement and success with awards in a trophy case.

"Not every team can win a championship," he writes. "But many teams can achieve excellence."

To view the rest of West's answer, go to: THE QUESTION website.

"I am so glad that Jerry West found this project to be worth his time," said Ryan, who played college hoops herself on her way to earning her doctorate in philosophy. "He is the most famous athlete in Mountaineer history and one of the best basketball players of all time. I'm just thrilled he was willing to contribute to THE QUESTION."

And THE QUESTION is continuing to achieve in its original mission. Ryan came up with the exercise two years ago as a way to introduce critical thinking and reasoning - the bedrocks of her profession - to area youngsters between the ages of 5 and 12.

The budding philosophers bumped up with brow-wrinkers from "Does God exist?" to "Are NASCAR drivers athletes?" More are in the works for this semester, she said.

"I'm very pleased and impressed with their answers," Ryan said. "Young people are amazingly insightful and perceptive, and THE QUESTION, I hope, is encouraging them to think and work out their ideas in a meaningful way."

West put meaningful work to what would be his career early on. The soft-spoken Cheylan native was the first Mountain State high school basketballer to score 900 points in a single season.

At WVU, he led the Mountaineers to within two points of winning college basketball's national championship in 1959, where he took Most Outstanding Player honors.

After that, he co-captained the gold medal-winning USA Men's Basketball Team in the 1960 Olympics at Rome - and he went on to the Los Angeles Lakers, where his legend was set in stone.

His on-court consistency earned him the nickname, "Mr. Clutch." He remains the Lakers' all-time scoring leader with 25, 192 points, and it's his silhouette that has served for 30 years running now as the NBA marketing logo. He's currently president of basketball operations for the NBA's Memphis Grizzlies.

Stansbury Hall, the home of Ryan's department, is also the site of the former field house where West played his home games as a Mountaineer.

"Sooner or later, it all comes back around," Ryan said. "I can find some excitement in the fact that my office is in the house that West built."

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