Former Phoenix Suns player and coach Paul Westphal dead at 70

Jan 2, 2021, 1:39 PM | Updated: 4:15 pm
Enshrinee Paul Westphal gives his speech during the 2019 Basketball Hall of Fame Enshrinement Cerem...
Enshrinee Paul Westphal gives his speech during the 2019 Basketball Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony at Symphony Hall on September 06, 2019 in Springfield, Massachusetts. (Photo by Omar Rawlings/Getty Images)
(Photo by Omar Rawlings/Getty Images)

Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame member and Phoenix Suns legend Paul Westphal died on Saturday at the age of 70.

Westphal was diagnosed with a brain tumor in August 2020, which was the cause of his death according to longtime friend and New York Daily News sports columnist Mike Lupica.

Westphal anchored the Suns’ rotation between 1975-80, returned to finish his playing career in the 1983-84 season and then coached the team from 1992-1995.

He has been part of the Suns’ only two NBA Finals runs in franchise history.

Westphal was a star guard on the 1976 team that lost in the Finals to the Boston Celtics and the head coach of the 1993 Suns team that lost to the Chicago Bulls.

He launched his coaching career in the Valley, with stops at Southwest Baptist Bible College (now Arizona Christian University), before moving down the road to lead Grand Canyon College (now Grand Canyon University) to an NAIA championship in 1988.

Westphal stayed in the Valley to serve as an assistant coach for the Suns under Cotton Fitzsimmons before assuming the head coaching role himself in 1992.

His tenure in Phoenix wrapped up after coaching the Suns for four seasons, making the playoffs in 1994 and 1995.

He would go on to coach the Seattle SuperSonics and Sacramento Kings for three seasons apiece between 1998-2001 and 2009-12, finishing his NBA coaching career with a 318-279 record.

He last served as an assistant coach in the NBA with the Brooklyn Nets under head coach Lionel Hollins during the 2014-15 season.

Tributes poured in commemorating Westphal on Saturday, remembering him for his impact on the game of basketball and beyond.

Jerry Colangelo, who owned the Suns during Westphal’s tenure as coach, remembered him as a fitting representative of the Suns as an organization.

“There may be just a handful of people who have as much influence and significance on the history of the Phoenix Suns,” Colangelo said in a team press release. “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.”

Current Suns owner Robert Sarver called Westphal a figure that will forever be remembered in the Valley.

“Westy will forever be remembered as a prominent Valley sports legend both on and off the court,” Sarver said in the release. “He built an illustrious career as both a player and a coach. His legacy ranks among the most quintessential basketball icons of all time.”

Phoenix Suns

Landry Shamet #14 of the Phoenix Suns handles the ball during the NBA preseason game at Footprint C...
Arizona Sports

Landry Shamet already feeling right at home with Suns

Landry Shamet has not played for the Suns yet, so that made it somewhat of a surprise that he was inked to a four-year contract extension.
1 day ago
Phoenix Suns' Chris Paul (3) talks with Devin Booker (1) during the first half of Game 3 of basketb...
Kellan Olson

Empire of the Suns: Picking Phoenix’s MVP, MIP and biggest concern

Here are a few key questions for the Phoenix Suns as they attempt to make another deep playoff run.
1 day ago
Phoenix Suns interim GM James Jones sits during an interview with The Doug & Wolf Show on 98.7 ...
Wills Rice

Suns GM James Jones: Deandre Ayton wanted 5-year max, nothing less

Suns GM James Jones said that the team and center Deandre Ayton did not have real negotiations in regards to the rookie max extension.
1 day ago
Giannis Antetokounmpo #34 of the Milwaukee Bucks heads to the net as Kevin Durant #7 of the Brookly...
Arizona Sports

Empire of the Suns’ NBA preview: Title favs, MVP picks and players to watch

Empire of the Suns podcast co-hosts Kellan Olson and Kevin Zimmerman dive into the new year with this NBA-wide glance.
1 day ago
Khris Middleton #22 of the Milwaukee Bucks shoots against Mikal Bridges #25 of the Phoenix Suns dur...
Arizona Sports

Here are the extensions signed from the 2018 NBA Draft class

The Phoenix Suns signed two players from the 2018 NBA Draft class to extensions but not center Deandre Ayton.
1 day ago
Deandre Ayton #22 of the Phoenix Suns and Mikal Bridges #25 celebrate defeating the LA Clippers 104...
Arizona Sports

Mikal Bridges, Joe Johnson and others react to Ayton not agreeing on extension

Phoenix Suns forward Mikal Bridges, basketball world comment on Deandre Ayton's contract extension situation.
1 day ago
Former Phoenix Suns player and coach Paul Westphal dead at 70