Paul Westphal, who won an NBA title with Boston and became an icon over 14 seasons as a player and coach for the Phoenix Suns, has died aged 70.
Westphal was taken 10th overall by Boston in the 1972 Draft and won an NBA crown with the Celtics in 1974, but became a star in Phoenix after being traded to the Suns in 1975.
He helped the Suns reach the 1976 NBA Finals as a guard, losing to Boston, and coached the Suns into the 1993 NBA Finals, where they lost to Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls.
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He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2019.
“Westy will not be immortalised for just playing basketball. He will be remembered for how he lived his life, and how he treated others,” the Suns said in a statement.
Suns managing partner Robert Sarver said: “Westy will forever be remembered as a prominent Valley (of the Sun) sports legend both on and off the court.
“He built an illustrious career as both a player and a coach. His legacy ranks among the most quintessential basketball icons of all time.”
Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr told NBA Sports: “He’s one of the great high school players in the area, so a legendary player who I heard about while I was growing up and then went on to USC and had an incredible NBA career.
“For me growing up in Los Angeles, he was one of the guys who came out of that city who inspired me.
“I think some of my earliest memories as a basketball fan were those USC-UCLA battles, I was about five, six years old or something, but Paul was a tremendous coach, tremendous player and just a really kind, decent man, and I speak for the whole organisation when I send condolences to the Westphal family, and yeah this is a very, very sad day.”
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Westphal, who also played for Seattle and New York, had his jersey number, 44, retired by the Suns ended with a final season at Phoenix in 1983/84.
As a coach, Westphal spent five years as an assistant with Phoenix and more than three seasons as head coach. He spent slightly more than two seasons each as head coach of the Seattle Supersonics and Sacramento Kings with a stint in between guiding Pepperdine University.
Westphal finished his career as an assistant coach for the Brooklyn Nets from 2014-2016.