Chat Transcript: Coach Paul Westhead
Westhead brings a wealth of coaching experience to the Mercury in 2006. He led Ervin "Magic" Johnson and the LA Lakers to an NBA Championship in 1980. In 1989-90, he guided Loyola Marymount University to the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament, averaging 122 points per game, which still stands as an NCAA record for a season. In addition to LMU and LA, Westhead has held NBA posts in Chicago and Denver and NCAA stints at LaSalle and George Mason. His international coaching experience includes two years with the Japanese pro league.
Westhead's teams have one thing in common -- high powered offense. His run and gun style has been rebranded as "PAUL BALL" and earned him the label of the "GURU OF GO". On Tuesday, Coach Westhead chatted live with fans and answered questions about the upcoming season. Check out what the coach had to say about his style of offense and much more.
John, Phoenix: Will you employ the same running style of play you used with the guys and how do you think the ladies will take to it?
Paul Westhead: Yes, I will employ my same fast-break style that I did in the NBA and in college. I'm very optimistic about it, I think there's every reason to think we'll be successful doing it. I think we can play at an exciting, rapid pace and I think we can be very good at it.
Matt (Sandusky, OH): From the game film you have viewed thus far, how well do the Mercury players that you will be inheriting fit into the run and gun style of play that you are known for as the "Guru of Go"?
Paul Westhead: I have had a chance to see several game films and several current players will fit very nicely in my fastbreak system. Diana Taurasi is obviously someone with multiple talents who can help us in a variety of ways, but she is a real talent who I think can spearhead this fastbreak style. We have some shooters on this team to, and time will tell how we fit each specific player into the system.
Kent Los Angeles: I wonder what you know about the WNBA teams and players, both on your team, and the rest of the league. What, if anything, did The LA Sparks/Henry Bibby experiment show you or cause you to change as you prepare for you first season with the WNBA?
Paul Westhead: Again, as I've looked at film, I got a sense of our players and others and the style of play of other teams. I don't have a specific comment on Henry Bibby's time in LA, I wasn't around to evaluate that. I know LA has good players and played aggressively, but I'm more concerned about getting the Mercury ready to compete against the Sparks and all the other WNBA teams next season.
Denise, Phoenix: Coach Westhead, Do you have a say in who your coaching staff is?? Has a decision been made already? Or is the team keeping last seasons assistant coaches?
Paul Westhead: Yes, I have a say. We're in the process of making those announcements. Things are getting finalized and in the next few weeks the Mercury will be making the official announcments about who my staff will be.
Martha (Phoenix): I was at the game in 1990 when the Suns beat your Nuggets 170-143 and it was one of the most exciting games I've ever seen. Besides the loss, what do you remember from that game?
Paul Westhead: Well, I remember that the Suns had 110 points at halftime. People on my staff were concerned that they may reach 200. I didn't share that concern, I knew they could not keep pace with my Denver Nuggets! It was a very exciting game, anyone who was there, will never forget it. Even though we lost, we had former Sun Walter Davis having a terrific game and while the Suns beat us that day, we played hard and it was a great show for the fans.
Janice (Niles, IL): How do the players' experiences overseas help them during the WNBA season?
Paul Westhead: That's something I'm gonna find out, as many of our players are playing overseas as we speak. When they come back in late spring to start training camp, we'll see how ready they are. I know there are mixed feelings. Some feel that the players come back in shape and ready to go and ready to compete. Others feel they come back injured and tired and not ready for camp. So, I'll have to see when they get here. I do know many of our players enjoy it very much and love the experience, so I'm all for that as long as they are ready to help us with the Mercury when camp starts.
Barry (Phoenix): Describe the components of the type of offense known as "Paul Ball." What are the key components regarding spacing, ball movement, etc.?
Paul Westhead: In it's simplest form, the fastbreak offense is initiated with possession of the ball, so we need good outlet passes to our point guard, off rebounds or baskets. Our point guard needs to speed-dribble right to the opponents basket and our wing players need to race down the court...sprint to their spots in two or three seconds. The the outlet player needs to trail rapidly for either a rebound or shot. We need to beat the defense down the court. It's a speed game and everyone needs to quickly get to their spots for us to be successful.
Jennifer (Nelsonville, W.V.): With the free agency signing period set to begin and the draft not too far away, what area have you and the Mercury identified as positions to focus on and "sure-up?" Best of luck!
Paul Westhead: There are a number of areas where we'd like to be better, even though we have a solid team. We'd like to improve at point guard, we want a quick, fast speedster who can deal the ball ahead to open shooters and create a fast pace. We also need to improve our rebounding, so an inside player from the 4 or 5 position, who can finish our break when we miss shots and get boards on the defensive end to start our break. Those are two main areas we want to upgrade.
Paul Westhead: Thanks to all the WNBA fans who chatted with me today. I'm excited about being with the Mercury and very excited to be part of the 10th anniversary of the WNBA. I think the Mercury will be very successful this year and I know we're gonna score a lot of points.