Paul Westphal, a five-time All-Star during his 12-year playing career with the Celtics, Suns, Sonics and Knicks, passed away Saturday at age 70. Westphal, who also coached in the NBA for several seasons, was diagnosed with glioblastoma, a form of brain cancer, last summer.
Drafted 10th overall following a decorated career at USC, the 6’4” guard won his lone title in 1974, though he reached the Finals on two other occasions, once more as a player (1976) and again as a coach in 1993. Westphal’s coach on the 1974 Celtics, Tommy Heinsohn, also died recently.
After retiring as a player in 1984, Westphal immediately transitioned into coaching, climbing the latter to become the Suns’ head coach in 1992, a role he held for three seasons. The Redondo Beach native went on to coach another of his former teams, the Sonics, followed by stints with Sacramento, Dallas and Brooklyn, serving as an assistant for the latter two. Westphal also coached at the collegiate level, presiding over Southwestern Baptist Bible College (now known as Arizona Christian University), Grand Canyon University and Pepperdine. Westphal amassed 318 victories as an NBA head coach, good for 64th all-time.
It didn’t take long for the tributes to start pouring in with countless players, coaches and media members paying their respects to Westphal on social media.
Westphal’s career resume—12,809 points, 3,591 assists and 1,022 steals over 823 NBA appearances—earned him induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2019. “Paul Westphal was a creative genius,” said Bill Walton, whose own Hall-of-Fame career coincided with Westphal’s. “Wherever he went, he was able to make everybody around him better.”
2021 is only two days old and we’ve already lost a pair of sports legends with Westphal and Denver Broncos Hall-of-Fame running back Floyd Little both passing.