Paul Westphal, Hall of Fame NBA Player and Coach, Dies at Age 70

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistJanuary 2, 2021

Sacramento Kings coach Paul Westphal in the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Detroit Pistons Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2010, in Auburn Hills, Mich. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)
Duane Burleson/Associated Press

Basketball Hall of Famer Paul Westphal has died at the age of 70.

The Phoenix Suns announced the news Saturday:

Phoenix Suns @Suns

Westy will not be immortalized for just playing basketball. He will be remembered for how he lived his life, and how he treated others. Rest In Peace, Westy 🙏

Mike Lupica of the New York Daily News tweeted in August that he received permission from Westphal to announce the NBA legend was diagnosed with brain cancer.

Mike Lupica @MikeLupica


"Westy will forever be remembered as a prominent Valley sports legend both on and off the court," Suns managing partner Robert Sarver said in a news release. "He built an illustrious career as both a player and a coach. His legacy ranks among the most quintessential basketball icons of all time."

Westphal was a standout player at USC from 1969 to 1972. He was named to All-Pac-8 teams three times, including the first team in 1969-70 and 1970-71. The program retired his No. 25 jersey and inducted him into its Hall of Fame in 1997.

The Boston Celtics selected Westphal with the No. 10 pick in the 1972 draft. He was primarily used as a role player for three years before he was traded to the Suns.

The California native had his breakout season in 1975-76. He averaged 20.5 points and 5.4 assists per game to lead Phoenix to the NBA Finals against the Celtics.

Westphal was named to five consecutive All-Star teams from 1976-77 to 1980-81 and the All-NBA first team three times, in 1976-77, 1978-79 and 1979-80. He averaged at least 20 points per game in each of his five years with the Suns.

Phoenix traded Westphal to the Seattle SuperSonics for Dennis Johnson after the 1979-80 season. He played one year with the team before moving to the New York Knicks for two seasons, winning 1982-83 Comeback Player of the Year after injuries had derailed his prior two seasons.

Westphal returned to the Suns in 1983-84 for his final year as a player.

After his playing days ended, Westphal spent three seasons as a college coach and then became an assistant coach with Phoenix for four seasons before taking over the top job. He spent 10 seasons as a head coach for three different teams, but his greatest success came with the Suns from 1992-93 to 1995-96. He had a 191-88 record and three playoff appearances, including a trip to the NBA Finals in 1993.

Westphal also coached the SuperSonics and Sacramento Kings. He finished 318-279 overall and was an assistant for Lionel Hollins with the Brooklyn Nets in 2014-15 and 2015-16.

Westphal was inducted into the College Basketball Hall of Fame in 2018 and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2019.