Architect of 1980 NBA Champs, NCAA Tournament Teams At Loyola Marymount

Paul Westhead Named Mercury Head Coach

PHOENIX – Paul Westhead, who guided the Los Angeles Lakers to the 1980 NBA World Championship, and a veteran of more than 30 years of coaching at the professional and college levels, has been named head coach of the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury, the team announced today. In accordance with team policy, terms of the multi-year contract were not disclosed.

Westhead won an NBA title as coach of the L.A. Lakers in 1980.
(Jeramie McPeek/Mercury Photos)
“This is a very exciting day for the Phoenix Mercury and our fans,” said Phoenix Mercury General Manager Seth Sulka. “Paul’s extensive experience in the professional game, as well as being an excellent communicator and accomplished teacher, will be a huge benefit to the Mercury organization as we strive to bring a championship to the city.”

The 5th head coach in Mercury history, Westhead comes to the Mercury after serving as an assistant coach for the NBA’s Orlando Magic for two seasons (2003-2005). He served as head coach of the Lakers from 1979-82. Early in the 1979-80 season, Westhead was elevated from assistant to head coach, and with a team led by center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and rookie guard Earvin “Magic” Johnson, guided the Lakers to a 4-2 series win over Philadelphia in the 1980 NBA Finals. He has the third highest winning percentage among all-time Lakers coaches (112-50, .691).

“It is a tremendous opportunity for me to coach in the WNBA and be a part of the Phoenix organization,” said Westhead. “I am confident that I can help move the Mercury forward and get into the mix of the playoffs and beyond. I love the game of basketball and have dedicated the majority of my life to it. I want to share what I know about the game with the players here and together help make the Mercury successful.”

Known for his teams that produced fast-breaking, high-scoring offenses, Westhead has also been the head coach for the following NBA teams: Chicago (1982-83) and Denver (1990-92), compiling a 184-224 (.451) record. He has also been the head coach in the ABA (2000-01) and in the Japanese Pro League (2001-03).

Westhead is in high demand as a clinician as well. He is sought after all over the world for his fast-breaking, high-scoring offensive techniques. He has spent time helping with USA Basketball programs and was a guest clinician for the 2005 USA women’s youth development festival teams this summer in Colorado Springs, CO.

Westhead also had tremendous success on the NCAA level. He has guided collegiate programs at LaSalle, Loyola Marymount and George Mason, compiling a record of 285-223 (.561) in 18 seasons. His most memorable stint was 1985-90, when he led Loyola Marymount to a 105-48 record in five seasons, including three consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances and a berth in the Elite Eight in 1990. Since 1980, Westhead is one of two coaches to have appeared in the NCAA Tournament and won an NBA Championship, the other being New York Knicks Head Coach Larry Brown.

During the past two summers (2004-05), Westhead assisted the NBA in one of their key initiatives, Basketball without Borders program in Treviso, Italy. This program serves as a basketball instructional camp in Europe for young people designed to promote friendship, healthy living and education through sport.

A native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Westhead graduated from St. Joseph’s (PA) in 1961. He and his wife, Cassie, have four children: Monica, Patrice, Paul Jr. and Julie.