Paul Westphal, Basketball Hall of Famer, Dead at 70

by Jennifer Shea
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NBA Hall of Famer and head coach Paul Westphal died on Saturday at age 70. 

Doctors had diagnosed Westphal with glioblastoma, a cancerous tumor in the brain, last year, the Los Angeles Times reports. Glioblastoma is difficult to treat and usually impossible to cure.

Paul Westphal Was Inducted into Two Halls of Fame

A California native, Westphal chose to go to USC over UCLA because he relished the challenge of building a team that could take on UCLA, which at the time was constantly winning. Westphal would later be inducted into the College Basketball Hall of Fame.

When it came time for Westphal to go pro, the Boston Celtics chose him in the first round. And he went on to win a title in his second year with the team. He became one of the Celtics’ most important reserve players until they traded him.

But Westphal’s legacy will be particularly strong in Phoenix, according to NBA.com. That’s where he played for the Phoenix Suns for 14 seasons after he left Boston. And he returned to coach there from 1988 to 1995.

“There may be just a handful of people who have as much influence and significance on the history of the Phoenix Suns,” former Suns owner Jerry Colangelo said. “All he accomplished as a player and as a coach. Off the court, he was a gentleman, a family man, great moral character. He represented the Suns the way you want every player to represent your franchise.”

After NBA, a Long Coaching Career

Colangelo described Westphal as a benevolent force in his life who improved it merely by being a part of it. And he said he’s grateful to have known Westphal. 

“He was cerebral in his game,” Colangelo added. “He was always thinking one step ahead. Even the infamous triple-overtime game in Boston during the Final series, when he was the one who said, ‘Call the timeout.’ Which forced a free throw, but gave us the ball at halfcourt and set up the opportunity to tie the game, which we did. That’s thinking right on the spot at the moment.”

Besides Boston and Phoenix, Westphal also played for Seattle. He coached for Arizona Christian University, Grand Canyon University and Pepperdine University. Additionally, in the NBA, he led the Suns, the Seattle Supersonics, the Dallas Mavericks, the Sacramento Kings and the Brooklyn Nets.

Westphal is survived by his wife Cindy and his two children, Michael and Victoria.   

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