College - St. Joseph's (PA)
An accomplished and innovative coach and teacher of the game of basketball, Paul Westhead last season tackled the question of whether his signature up-tempo style could translate to the women’s professional ranks. The answer: a resounding yes.
In his first season coaching women on any level, Westhead led the Mercury to an 18-16 record, the team’s first winning season since 2000 and became just the second first-year head coach in franchise history to post a winning record. Westhead coached his team to a franchise-record seven game winning streak to close the 2006 season and the first perfect month in club history (7-0 August).
Just one season into his WNBA coaching career, Westhead has already left his mark on the game and its record books. The 2006 Mercury shattered the league record for scoring average in a season, putting up 87.1 points per game, a staggering 9.8 more points per game than the 2000 Houston Comets, who previously held the record. Westhead’s Phoenix team led the league in scoring by a 6.3-point margin over the second-place Washington Mystics, the largest margin separating first and second-place finishers in the league scoring race in WNBA history.
The “Guru of Go” also brought the Mercury the club’s first triple-digit offensive performance in a 112-point explosion on August 3, 2006 against Charlotte, the second-most points in a WNBA game all-time. In 2006, Phoenix scored 100 or more twice, and 90 or more points 15 times after doing it just twice in the club’s first nine seasons.
A veteran of more than 30 years of coaching at the professional and collegiate levels, Westhead was named the sixth head coach in Mercury history on Tuesday, October 11, 2005. Prior to joining Phoenix, he served as an assistant coach for the NBA’s Orlando Magic for two seasons (2003-2005). Most notably, Westhead served as head coach of the Los Angeles 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 Lakers coaches all-time (112-50, .691).
Known for his teams’ fast-breaking, high-scoring offenses, Westhead also served as head coach for the Chicago Bulls (1982-83) and Denver Nuggets (1990-92), compiling a 184-224 (.451) record. He has also been a head coach in the ABA (2000-01) and in the Japanese Pro League (2001-03).
Westhead remains in high demand as a clinician. He is sought after internationally for his 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 in Colorado Springs, CO in summer 2005.
Westhead had tremendous success on the NCAA level where he guided programs at LaSalle, Loyola Marymount and George Mason, compiling a record of 285-223 (.561) in 18 seasons. His most memorable stint was at Loyola Marymount from 1985-90, where he built a 105-48 (.686) record in five seasons, and made three consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances and one trip to 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 (Larry Brown).
In the summer 2004 and 2005, Westhead assisted the NBA in the league’s Basketball without Borders program in Treviso, Italy. The program serves as a basketball instructional camp in Europe for young people designed to promote friendship, healthy living and education through sports.
A native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Westhead graduated from St. Joseph’s (PA) in 1961. He and his wife, Catherine, have four children: Monica, Patrice, Paul Jr. and Julie.