ARTICLE

Ronnie Lester, one of the U. of Iowa's best basketball players ever, is losing his assistant GM job with the L.A. Lakers

Ronnie Lester and Kevin McHale in 1980
Ronnie Lester and Kevin McHale in 1980

Some unhappy news for anyone who knows or likes Ronnie Lester. The best University of Iowa player I've ever seen is not getting his contract as assistant general manager renewed by the Los Angeles Lakers.

Lester's injury-plagued career in the NBA ended with the Lakers in 1986. He played in just 250 games in his six-year career after leading Iowa to a Final Four berth in 1980.

When Iowa was in southern California for the Rose Bowl in 1985, I slipped over to Inglewood one night to attend a Golden State-Lakers game at the Forum. It was a terrific game. Lester didn't play.

I wrote a piece about Lester, who was a reserve on that team. I asked Magic Johnson about Lester, and Michigan State's Magic said Lester was the best player he ever played against in college.

It's been said that Lute Olson changed Iowa basketball for the better, and he certainly did just that. But the most-important thing Olson did was see something in Chicago's Lester that other college coaches didn't. Early in Lester's freshman season, it was obvious he was a special point guard. Hawkeye fans who go back 31 years will always wonder if Iowa would have won the national-title had Lester not been injured eight minutes into the national semifinals against eventual-champion Louisville.

Not long after his NBA playing days ended, Lester remained with the Lakers as a scout and then assistant GM. He periodically would be seen at Iowa games in Carver-Hawkeye Arena (and sometimes at Iowa State's Hilton Coliseum, too) evaluating players for the Lakers.

His reputation in the organization was obviously good, as he eventually went from scout to assistant GM, a position he held for 10 years.

Lester never stopped loving Iowa. In 2009, he donated $100,000 to the University of Iowa Foundation to improve Carver-Hawkeye Arena, requesting the training room in the arena be named after longtime Iowa trainer John Streif.

 

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