Paul Westphal
Westphal in 2014
Personal information
Born(1950-11-30)November 30, 1950
Torrance, California, U.S.
DiedJanuary 2, 2021(2021-01-02) (aged 70)
Scottsdale, Arizona, U.S.
Listed height6 ft 4 in (1.93 m)
Listed weight195 lb (88 kg)
Career information
High schoolAviation (Redondo Beach, California)
CollegeUSC (1969–1972)
NBA draft1972: 1st round, 10th overall pick
Selected by the Boston Celtics
Playing career1972–1984
PositionShooting guard / point guard
Coaching career1985–2016
Career history
As player:
19721975Boston Celtics
19751980Phoenix Suns
1980–1981Seattle SuperSonics
19821983New York Knicks
1983–1984Phoenix Suns
As coach:
1985–1986Southwestern Baptist Bible
1986–1988Grand Canyon
19881992Phoenix Suns (assistant)
19921995Phoenix Suns
19982000Seattle SuperSonics
2007–2008Dallas Mavericks (assistant)
20092012Sacramento Kings
20142016Brooklyn Nets (assistant)
Career highlights and awards
As player:

As coach:

Career playing statistics
Points12,809 (15.6 ppg)
Assists3,591 (4.4 apg)
Steals1,022 (1.3 spg)
Stats Edit this at Wikidata at
Stats Edit this at Wikidata at
Career coaching record
NBA318–279 (.533)
College159–98 (.619)
Basketball Hall of Fame as player
College Basketball Hall of Fame
Inducted in 2018

Paul Douglas Westphal (November 30, 1950 – January 2, 2021) was an American basketball player and coach.

Westphal played in the National Basketball Association (NBA) from 1972 to 1984. Playing the guard position, he won an NBA championship with the Boston Celtics in 1974. Westphal played in the NBA Finals again in 1976 as a member of the Phoenix Suns. His NBA career also included stints with the Seattle SuperSonics and the New York Knicks. In addition to being a five-time All-Star selection, Westphal earned three All-NBA First Team selections and one Second Team honor.

After his playing career ended, Westphal coached for Southwestern Baptist Bible College (now Arizona Christian University), Grand Canyon University, and Pepperdine University, and served also as head coach of the Phoenix Suns, Seattle SuperSonics, and Sacramento Kings in the NBA. Westphal coached the Suns to the NBA Finals in 1993.

In 2019, Westphal was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

Early life

Westphal with USC

Born in Torrance, California,[1] Westphal went to Aviation High School in Redondo Beach from 1966 to 1969.[2] He attended the University of Southern California in Los Angeles and played college basketball for the Trojans at guard.

USC had a 24–2 (.923) record in 1971, setting a Trojans record for winning percentage. In that era, the Pac-8 Conference sent only one team (champion UCLA) to the 25-team NCAA tournament and none to the 16-team National Invitation Tournament (NIT).

Westphal was an All-American team captain in 1972. Playing for USC from 1970 to 1972, he averaged 16.9 points per game and led the Trojans with 20.3 points per game in 1972.[3]

Playing career

Boston Celtics (1972–1975)

The Boston Celtics selected Westphal tenth overall in the 1972 NBA draft.[3] After three seasons in Boston, including a championship in 1974,[4] the Celtics traded Westphal and two second round draft picks to the Phoenix Suns for Charlie Scott.[5][6]

Phoenix Suns (1975–1980)

Westphal in 1975.

In his first season with in Phoenix, Westphal helped the Suns reach their first NBA Finals, against the Celtics. In Game 5 of that series, often called "the greatest game ever played" in NBA history,[7][8][9] he made several critical plays that pushed the game into triple overtime before Boston prevailed.[10][11][12][13] Notably, Westphal exploited a loophole within NBA rules that effectively allowed the Suns to cede a point to get the ball at half-court with two seconds remaining at the end of the second overtime; the Suns tied the game thanks to the loophole.[14]

Westphal was sixth in the NBA in scoring average for the 1977–78 season at 25.2 points per game,[15] and was also the first NBA All-Star Weekend H-O-R-S-E Competition champion.[16] The following season, he was seventh in scoring average with 24.0 points per game.[17]

Seattle Supersonics (1980–1981)

After the 1979–80 season in early June, the Suns traded Westphal to the Seattle SuperSonics for Dennis Johnson,[18][19][20][21] He played 36 games in the 1980–81 season, limited by a stress fracture in his right foot. He was a free agent after the season, but Seattle held the right of first refusal. He was unable to come to terms with the Sonics.[22]

New York Knicks (1982–1983)

After missing most of the 1981–82 season, Westphal signed with the New York Knicks in late February 1982 after Seattle declined to match the offer.[23][24][25] He was named the NBA Comeback Player of the Year in 1982–83, when he averaged 10 points and 5.5 assists and helped the Knicks qualify for the playoffs.[26]

Return to Phoenix (1983–1984)

He signed a two-year contract with Phoenix in September 1983,[27][28] and the Suns waived him in October 1984.[29]

In his NBA career, Westphal scored a total of 12,809 points for an average of 15.6 points per game, with 3,591 assists for an average of 4.4 assists per game. He also had 1,580 rebounds, for an average of 1.9 per game. Westphal was a five-time All-Star, a three-time All-NBA first team selection, and a one-time second team All-NBA selection. He is Phoenix's fifth all-time leading scorer (9,564), averaging 20.6 points in six seasons (1975–80, 1983–84). His No. 44 was retired by the Suns, and he is a member of their Ring of Honor.[30] Westphal was also inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame as a player on September 6, 2019.[31]

Coaching career

Westphal's coaching career started in 1985 at Southwestern Baptist Bible College (now Arizona Christian University), located in Phoenix. After compiling a 21–9 record in his lone season there, he moved on to Grand Canyon College, also in Phoenix, and after two seasons led them to the NAIA national title in 1988.[32][33]

In 1988, after three years in the college ranks, Westphal became an assistant coach with the Phoenix Suns under head coach Cotton Fitzsimmons, and in 1992, he succeeded Fitzsimmons as head coach of the Suns.[32][34] With players such as Kevin Johnson, Dan Majerle, rookie Richard Dumas, Charles Barkley, and Danny Ainge, the Suns made it to the NBA Finals in Westphal's first season as a coach, but lost to the Chicago Bulls in six games.[35] While the Suns made the playoffs during each of Westphal's seasons as coach, they did not return to the Finals, and Westphal was let go during the 1995–96 season.[36] He served as an assistant coach for a high school team in Arizona for two years before he returned to the NBA as a coach with the SuperSonics for the 1998–99 season.[2] He coached in Seattle until he was fired 15 games into the 2000–01 season.[37]

Westphal returned to the college ranks in April 2001 at Pepperdine University. In his first season, Westphal led the Waves to a 22–9 record and tied the nationally ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs for the WCC title. The team received an at-large berth to the NCAA tournament, but lost 83–74 to Wake Forest in the first round, played at ARCO Arena in Sacramento. This was the only postseason berth during the rest of Westphal's five-year tenure and he finished with an overall record of 74–72. After a 7–20 season in 2005–06, Westphal was fired on March 15, 2006.[38]

On June 28, 2007, the Dallas Mavericks announced they had hired Westphal as an assistant coach under head coach Avery Johnson.[39] When Johnson was replaced by Rick Carlisle, Westphal left coaching to become executive vice-president of basketball operations (under Donnie Nelson) for the Mavericks in October 2008.[40] On June 10, 2009, Westphal was named head coach of the Sacramento Kings.[41] Westphal was fired from the Kings on January 5, 2012.[34][42]

For the 2014–15 season, Westphal was hired by the Brooklyn Nets as an assistant to new head coach Lionel Hollins.[43] Hollins had previously served as Westphal's assistant coach in Phoenix. When the Nets fired Hollins in January 2016, Westphal left the team.[44]

Broadcasting career

Westphal also worked as a studio analyst for Fox Sports Net West/Prime Ticket for Los Angeles Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers games, first joining them during the Clippers' run in the 2006 NBA Playoffs.[45]

Personal life

Westphal was married to Cindy Westphal and they had two children together.[46] He was a Christian.[47][48]

In August 2020, ESPN reported that he was diagnosed with brain cancer[49] which he succumbed to in Scottsdale, Arizona on January 2, 2021, at age 70.[11]

Head coaching record


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
Phoenix 1992–93 82 62 20 .756 1st in Pacific 24 13 11 .542 Lost in NBA Finals
Phoenix 1993–94 82 56 26 .683 2nd in Pacific 10 6 4 .600 Lost in Conference semifinals
Phoenix 1994–95 82 59 23 .720 1st in Pacific 10 6 4 .600 Lost in Conference semifinals
Phoenix 1995–96 33 14 19 .424 (fired)
Seattle 1998–99 50 25 25 .500 5th in Pacific Missed playoffs
Seattle 1999–2000 82 45 37 .549 4th in Pacific 5 2 3 .400 Lost in first round
Seattle 2000–01 15 6 9 .400 (fired)
Sacramento 2009–10 82 25 57 .305 5th in Pacific Missed playoffs
Sacramento 2010–11 82 24 58 .293 5th in Pacific Missed playoffs
Sacramento 2011–12 7 2 5 .286 (fired)
Career 597 318 279 .533   49 27 22 .551  



Statistics overview
Season Team Overall Conference Standing Postseason
Southwestern Baptist Bible Eagles (National Little College Athletic Association) (1985–1986)
1985–86 Southwestern Baptist Bible 21–9 NLCAA Tournament
Southwestern Baptist Bible: 21–9 (.700)
Grand Canyon Antelopes (NAIA independent) (1986–1988)
1986–87 Grand Canyon 26–12
1987–88 Grand Canyon 37–6 NAIA Champions
Grand Canyon: 63–18 (.778)
Pepperdine Waves (West Coast Conference) (2001–2006)
2001–02 Pepperdine 21–9 13–1 T–1st NCAA Division I Round of 64
2002–03 Pepperdine 15–13 7–7 4th
2003–04 Pepperdine 15–15 9–5 T–2nd
2004–05 Pepperdine 17–14 6–8 T–5th
2005–06 Pepperdine 7–20 3–11 8th
Pepperdine: 75–71 (.514) 38–32 (.543)
Total: 159–98 (.619)

      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


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  2. ^ a b "The Call Of Coaching – Ever Since Grade School, Paul Westphal Has Been A Student Of The Game". The Seattle Times. February 4, 1999. Retrieved January 2, 2020.
  3. ^ a b "Paul Westphal, USC All-American And Basketball Hall of Fame Guard, Dies at 70". USC Athletics. June 29, 2023.
  4. ^ Carry, Peter (May 20, 1974). "A matter of Celtic pride". Sports Illustrated. p. 22.
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  13. ^ McDermott, Barry (June 14, 1976). "Call them champs again". Sports Illustrated. p. 20.
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  19. ^ Sachare, Alex (June 4, 1980). "Dennis, Westphal swapped". Spokesman-Review. (Spokane, Washington). Associated Press. p. C1.
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  24. ^ "24 Feb 1982, 19 - The Press Democrat at".
  25. ^ "12 Mar 1982, Page 24 - The Burlington Free Press at".
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  29. ^ "13 Oct 1984, Page 105 - Arizona Republic at".
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  33. ^ "WESTPHAL RISES : There's Heir of Change on Phoenix's Coaching Horizon". Los Angeles Times. May 25, 1989.
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  44. ^ "11 Jan 2016, S4 - The Record at".
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  47. ^ "Former NBA star Paul Westphal discusses his connection to Israel". Jewish Insider. February 21, 2020.
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