The NBA has lost a legend. Former player, coach, and commentator Paul Westphal has died at the age of 70, the Phoenix Suns confirmed on Saturday. The news was initially shared by longtime sportswriter and family friend Mike Lupica. Westphal was diagnosed with brain cancer in August.
Lupica shared the following message on Twitter:
My dear friend, NBA Hall of Famer Paul Westphal, passed away today. He was 70, and had been diagnosed with brain cancer earlier this year. He was a splendid husband, father, grandfather, player, coach, friend, and man of faith. God now receives into His arms a most honored guest.
After spending his collegiate career at USC, Westphal was selected in the first round (10th overall) of the 1972 NBA Draft by the Boston Celtics. He played with the Celtics for three seasons and won a title with the team in 1974. He also went on to play for the Phoenix Suns, Seattle Supersonics, and New York Knicks, where he earned Comeback Player of the Year honors. Over the course of his career, he was named an All-Star five times and named as an All-NBA First Team selection three times. he tallied 12,809 total points, 3,591 assists, 1,580 rebounds, and 1,022 steals, and his No. 44 is retired by the Suns. He was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2019.
Once his playing career concluded, Westphal shifted into coaching, and he went on to become the head coach of the Suns, Sonics, and Sacramento Kings. Most notably, he led the Suns to the NBA Finals in 1993, where they lost to Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls in six games. He also led Seattle to the playoffs in 2000. Most recently. Westphal served as an assistant with the Brooklyn Nets from 2014 to 2016. He accumulated a career 318-279 record as a head coach.
"He was cerebral in his game. He was always thinking one step ahead," former Suns general manager and owner Jerry Colangelo said in a statement. "There may be just a handful of people who have as much influence and significance on the history of the Phoenix Suns. 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."
Losing a legend like Westphal is certainly a tough way for the basketball world to begin 2021, but while Westphal is gone, he won't be forgotten. Westphal leaves a legacy that that will be remembered and revered -- not just by the cities where he played and coached, but by the league at large.