A trip back to his native West Virginia helped convince Jerry West his future remains with the Los Angeles Lakers. Vacationing in the Appalachian state allowed West to clear his mind of thoughts about taking a leave of absence or retiring from his job as executive vice president.

"I've had so much advice this summer, I've had so many people pulling and tugging at me that sometimes you just need to get away," he said Thursday."It's so quiet and peaceful back there. Just being there and being by myself a lot of times probably convinced me that this was the thing I had to do."

What he did was sign a four-year contract extension Thursday that will keep him around through the 2002-03 season. He has one year left on his current deal.

Financial terms were not disclosed, but The Press-Enterprise of Riverside reported Wednesday that West would earn $3.5 million a year - about a $2 million raise.

"It's an embarrassing amount of money, no matter what it is," he said. "This isn't about money."

Asked if he felt his new deal was a sign of appreciation from team owner Jerry Buss, West replied, "For me to say that would be asinine. I don't need a lot of pats on the back, that's not important."

But he was pleased by support from Lakers stars Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant, both of whom had said any decision by West would have an impact on their futures in Los Angeles.

Five months ago, West was stressed out in the job he's held since 1982 - the longest tenure in the NBA. He cited the pressures of his job and admitted he was distraught about the Lakers being swept by the Utah Jazz in the Western Conference finals after going 61-21 in the regular season.