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Paul Westhead
Personal information
Born (1939-02-21) February 21, 1939 (age 85)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Career information
High schoolWest Catholic Preparatory
(Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
CollegeSaint Joseph's (1958–1961)
Coaching career1970–2014
Career history
As coach:
1970–1979La Salle (men's)
1979Los Angeles Lakers (assistant)
19791981Los Angeles Lakers
1982–1983Chicago Bulls
1985–1990Loyola Marymount (men's)
19901992Denver Nuggets
1993–1997George Mason (men's)
19971999Golden State Warriors (assistant)
2000–2001Los Angeles Stars
2001–2003Panasonic Super Kangaroos
2003Long Beach Jam
20032005Orlando Magic (assistant)
20062007Phoenix Mercury
20072009Seattle SuperSonics / Oklahoma City Thunder (assistant)
2009–2014Oregon (women's)
Career highlights and awards
As head coach:
Career coaching record
NBA183–224 (.450)
WNBA41–27 (.603)
College (men's)285–223 (.561)
College (women's)66–92 (.418)

Paul William Westhead (born February 21, 1939) is an American retired basketball coach. He was the head coach for three National Basketball Association (NBA) teams and an assistant for four others, and also coached in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA), American Basketball Association (ABA), and Japan Basketball League (JBL). In his first year as an NBA head coach, he led a rookie Magic Johnson and the Los Angeles Lakers to the 1980 NBA Finals, which they won in six games for the team's first title in eight years. Westhead won titles in both the NBA and WNBA, and he is also remembered as the coach of the Loyola Marymount University (LMU) men's basketball team. Westhead is known for an unorthodox, run-and-gun style called "The System.” He was nicknamed "The Professor" due to his former career as an English teacher prior to coaching and his tendency to quote Shakespeare and other literary sources while coaching. He attended Saint Joseph's University.


Cheltenham High School

Westhead started his coaching career at Cheltenham High School in suburban Philadelphia; in 1968, he coached the Panthers to a loss in the Pennsylvania state championship.[1] One of his players at Cheltenham was future University of Virginia Athletic Director Craig Littlepage.[2]

La Salle University

Westhead coached the La Salle University men's basketball team starting in 1970 while also teaching as a professor in the English Department. Westhead led the Explorers to one NIT and two NCAA tournament appearances in nine seasons (1970–1979). He finished with a record of 142–105.


Los Angeles Lakers

Westhead started his NBA head coaching career by succeeding Jack McKinney as coach of the Los Angeles Lakers after serving briefly as his assistant (Westhead initially became interim head coach after McKinney was hospitalized due to a serious bicycle accident). With rookie guard Magic Johnson and longtime star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the Lakers won the 1980 NBA Finals in Westhead's first year as coach, defeating Philadelphia in six games for the first title in their Showtime era. However, the team lost in the playoffs the next year to the Moses Malone-led Houston Rockets. Tensions grew between Westhead and Magic Johnson, as Johnson wanted Westhead to implement a fast-break offense involving all five players that better suited his style of play, while Westhead was insistent to continue running an isolation style offense centered on Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Westhead was fired early in his third season with the Lakers, and replaced with Pat Riley (whom Westhead had hired as an assistant). It is commonly believed that Magic Johnson orchestrated Westhead's ouster. A 1987 book called Winnin' Times (about the Lakers' franchise history) indicated that Lakers owner Jerry Buss wanted to fire Westhead several days prior to the actual occurrence, which is not mutually exclusive of the notion that Johnson had orchestrated it. In 1982, Buss said, "The irony, which makes what Magic did unfortunate, is that I had already decided to fire him. But I don't think anyone will ever totally believe that."[3] Westhead finished his Lakers stint with a 111–50 record.

Chicago Bulls

Westhead was the head coach of the Chicago Bulls for the 1982–83 season, but lasted only one season as the Bulls went 28–54. Prior to that season, the Bulls traded all-star center Artis Gilmore to the San Antonio Spurs, and the franchise was still two years away from the debut of Michael Jordan.

Loyola Marymount

Westhead returned to the college ranks, and took over as the head coach of the Loyola Marymount Lions men's basketball program. From 1985 to 1990, Westhead oversaw an impressive run in which Loyola Marymount, despite being a smaller school and not a traditional NCAA basketball power, became a legitimate contender in NCAA hoops. Westhead lured star players like Hank Gathers and Bo Kimble, who both transferred from USC, and Loyola Marymount set several NCAA records with their up-tempo, run-and-gun style.

From 1988 to 1990, Westhead's teams went 27–3, 20–10 and 23–5 respectively, earning NCAA tournament berths each year. Gathers led the NCAA in scoring and rebounding (32.7 ppg, 13.7 rpg) in 1989 and Kimble led the NCAA in scoring in 1990 (35.3 ppg). After the on-court death of Gathers in its conference tournament, LMU went on an inspired run in the NCAA tournament in 1990 that captured the attention of the entire college basketball world for those weeks. The Lions blew out defending champion Michigan in the 2nd round and made it to the Regional Final round before losing to eventual national champion, the UNLV Runnin' Rebels, by 30 points.

Westhead's teams led Division I in scoring in 1988 (110.3 points per game), 1989 (112.5), and 1990 (122.4).[4] LMU's 122.4 point per game in 1990 remains the NCAA record as of 2023.[5] As of April 2012, Loyola Marymount held the five highest combined score games in Division I history. Four of the five occurred during Westhead's career, including a record 331 in the 181–150 win over United States International University on January 31, 1989.[6]


Denver Nuggets

After the 1989–1990 season, Westhead left LMU for the NBA's Denver Nuggets, a position he held for two seasons. His tenure in Denver was best known for attempting to incorporate the run-and-gun offense that worked for LMU to the NBA.

However, while the 1990-91 Nuggets averaged a league-best 119.9 points per game in 1990–91, they also surrendered an NBA record 130.8 points per game. Their opponents never scored fewer than 100 points in any game, and only four opponents failed to score at least 110 points.[7] They gave up 107 points in a single half to the Phoenix Suns, which remains an NBA record. Under Westhead, the Nuggets were sometimes called the "Enver Nuggets" (as in no "D," or no defense). The next year the Nuggets drafted Dikembe Mutombo, who made the All-Star team, and played at a more conservative pace scoring just 2 points per game. However, they only improved to 24 wins, largely because they continued to give up points so quickly that even their prolific offense could not keep up. Westhead was fired after posting a combined two-year record of 44–120.

George Mason

Following his tenure with the Nuggets, Westhead returned to college coaching as the head coach of George Mason University from 1993 to 1997. This time, Westhead's run-and-gun style did not succeed at the college level, ending his tenure at Mason with a 38–70 record. Westhead was succeeded at Mason by Jim Larranaga after the 1996–1997 season.

Golden State Warriors

From 1997 to 1999, Westhead was an assistant coach with the Golden State Warriors under head coach P. J. Carlesimo.[8]


Los Angeles Stars

Westhead was the head coach of the Los Angeles Stars in the inaugural season of the new ABA in 2000–2001.[9]

Panasonic Super Kangaroos

Westhead was the head coach of the Panasonic Super Kangaroos of the Japan Basketball League from 2001 to 2003.[10]

Long Beach Jam

Westhead returned to the ABA as the head coach of Long Beach Jam in 2003. He coached the team for only one game before returning to the NBA.[11]

Orlando Magic

From 2003 to 2005, Westhead was an assistant coach with the Orlando Magic under head coach Johnny Davis.

Phoenix Mercury

In 2005, Westhead was hired as the head coach of the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury, a position that he held until the 2007 WNBA season concluded. In 2007, Westhead coached the Mercury to a WNBA championship, making him the only coach to win a championship in the NBA and the WNBA. Led by Diana Taurasi, the Mercury won using Westhead's fast-paced approach.[12]

Seattle SuperSonics/Oklahoma City Thunder

On September 27, 2007 he agreed to a contract with the NBA's Seattle SuperSonics to be an assistant coach under longtime friend P. J. Carlesimo. Following the season, the franchise moved to Oklahoma City and was renamed the Thunder. When Carlesimo was relieved of his duties on November 21, 2008, Westhead was also released as an assistant at that time.[13]


University of Oregon, women's basketball

On March 26, 2009 University of Oregon Athletic Director Pat Kilkenny introduced Paul Westhead as the Ducks' newest head coach. As the sixth head coach in the history of Oregon women's basketball, this was Westhead's first job as head coach of an NCAA women's program (although he had coached women's teams at the professional level before).

On March 4, 2014, the University of Oregon announced that they would not renew Westhead's contract, which expired March 31, 2014. Westhead was 65–90 overall at Oregon and 27–64 in conference play in five seasons. Westhead's Oregon contract was worth more than $3 million for five years, with his final season earning him $675,000.[14]

Head coaching record

Men's college basketball

Statistics overview
Season Team Overall Conference Standing Postseason
La Salle Explorers (Middle Atlantic Conferences) (1970–1974)
1970–71 La Salle 20–7 5–1 2nd (East) NIT first round
1971–72 La Salle 6–19 2–4 T–4th (East)
1972–73 La Salle 15–10 3–3 4th (East)
1973–74 La Salle 18–10 5–1 T–1st (East)
La Salle Explorers (East Coast Conference) (1974–1979)
1974–75 La Salle 22–7 5–1 T–1st (East) NCAA Division I first round
1975–76 La Salle 11–15 1–4 T–5th (East)
1976–77 La Salle 17–12 3–2 3rd (East)
1977–78 La Salle 18–12 5–0 1st (East) NCAA Division I first round
1978–79 La Salle 15–13 10–3 3rd (East)
La Salle: 142–105 (.575)
Loyola Marymount Lions (West Coast Conference) (1985–1990)
1985–86 Loyola Marymount 19–11 10–4 2nd NIT second round
1986–87 Loyola Marymount 12–16 4–10 8th
1987–88 Loyola Marymount 28–4 14–0 1st NCAA Division I second round
1988–89 Loyola Marymount 20–11 10–4 T–2nd NCAA Division I first round
1989–90 Loyola Marymount 26–6 13–1 1st NCAA Division I Elite Eight
Loyola Marymount: 105–48 (.686) 51–19 (.729)
George Mason Patriots (Colonial Athletic Association) (1993–1997)
1993–94 George Mason 10–17 5–9 T–6th
1994–95 George Mason 7–20 2–12 8th
1995–96 George Mason 11–16 6–10 T–6th
1996–97 George Mason 10–17 4–12 9th
George Mason: 38–70 (.352) 17–44 (.279)
Total: 285–223 (.561)

      National champion         Postseason invitational champion  
      Conference regular season champion         Conference regular season and conference tournament champion
      Division regular season champion       Division regular season and conference tournament champion
      Conference tournament champion


Regular season G Games coached W Games won L Games lost W–L % Win–loss %
Playoffs PG Playoff games PW Playoff wins PL Playoff losses PW–L % Playoff win–loss %
Team Year G W L W–L% Finish PG PW PL PW–L% Result
Los Angeles 1979–80 68 50 18 .735 1st in Pacific 16 12 4 .750 Won NBA Championship
Los Angeles 1980–81 82 54 28 .659 2nd in Pacific 3 1 2 .333 Lost in first round
Los Angeles 1981–82 11 7 4 .636 (fired)
Chicago 1982–83 82 28 54 .341 4th in Central Missed Playoffs
Denver 1990–91 82 20 62 .244 7th in Midwest Missed Playoffs
Denver 1991–92 82 24 58 .293 4th in Midwest Missed Playoffs
Career 407 183 224 .450 19 13 6 .684


Regular season G Games coached W Games won L Games lost W–L % Win–loss %
Playoffs PG Playoff games PW Playoff wins PL Playoff losses PW–L % Playoff win–loss %
Team Year G W L W–L% Finish PG PW PL PW–L% Result
PHX 2006 34 18 16 .529 5th in West Missed Playoffs
PHX 2007 34 23 11 .676 1st in West 9 7 2 .778 Won WNBA Finals
Career 68 41 27 .603 9 7 3 .778

Women's college basketball

Statistics overview
Season Team Overall Conference Standing Postseason
Oregon Ducks (Pacific-10/Pac-12 Conference) (2009–2014)
2009–10 Oregon 18–16 7–11 T–6th WNIT third round
2010–11 Oregon 13–17 4–14 9th
2011–12 Oregon 15–16 7–11 9th
2012–13 Oregon 4–27 2–16 12th
2013–14 Oregon 16–16 6–12 10th WNIT second round
Oregon: 66–92 (.418) 26–64 (.289)
Total: 66–92 (.418)


  1. ^ "Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association".
  2. ^ "Hall of Fame Biographies: Craig Littlepage". Retrieved September 5, 2023.
  3. ^ Johnson, Roy S.; Times, Special To the New York (1982-06-03). "Westhead the Forgotten Man". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-07-25.
  4. ^ NCAA 2010, p.39
  5. ^ NCAA 2010, p.5
  6. ^ NCAA 2010, pp.28–29
  7. ^ "Basketbawful".
  8. ^ "Warriors name Paul Westhead assistant coach". AP NEWS.
  9. ^ Ford, Bob (February 4, 2001). "Still Crazy After All These Years A New Professional League Has Given Paul Westhead, That Mad Professor Of Up-tempo Basketball, Yet Another Laboratory In Which To Experiment". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved July 17, 2011.
  10. ^ "Westhead hired by JBL team". The Japan Times. August 8, 2001.
  11. ^ Guardabascio, Mike; Trevino, Chris (2015-09-28). Basketball in Long Beach. ISBN 9781625854612.
  12. ^ "Taurasi, Pondexter lead Mercury to second title in three years". Retrieved 2009-10-10.
  13. ^ "NBA-worst Thunder fire Carlesimo after 1-12 start". November 22, 2008.
  14. ^ Greif, Andrew (March 4, 2014). "Oregon Ducks will not renew Paul Westhead's contract as women's basketball head coach". The Oregonian. Retrieved March 7, 2014.