Paul Westphal was an assistant with the Suns under head coach Cotton Fitzsimmons. He took over the head coaching job in 1992, and with the addition of Charles Barkley who came over from the 76ers and Danny Ainge who was acquired from Portland, the Sun made it to the NBA Finals. Where, they eventually lost to the Chicago Bulls & Michael Jordon in 6 games.
While the Suns made the playoffs during each of Westphal's seasons as coach, they did not return to the finals, and Westphal was replaced during the 1995–96 season
During his first and best season as a head coach, Westphal’s team in order by minutes played was:
Dan Majerle who was in his 5th season at age 27
Charles Barkley who was in his 9th season at age 29
Danny Ainge in his 12th season at age 33
Tom Chambers in his 12th season at age 33
Kevin Johnson in his 6th season at age 26
Cedric Ceballos in his 3rd season at age 23
Mark West in his 10th season at age 32
Richard Dumas in his rookie season at age 23
Frank Johnson in his 9th season at age 34 Johnson played in Italy from 89-91
Oliver Miller in his rookie season at age 22. Miller was the Suns #1 pick and 22nd pick in the 1st round.
The average age of the top 7 players in minutes played was 29 years of age with on average 8 years of NBA experience. And, their #1 pick that year was the 10th man in the rotation.
In Westphal’s final year as a head coach of the Suns, their record was 41-41. His team in order by minutes played was:
Michael Finley in his Rookie season at age 22
Barkley in his 12th season at age 32
Wesley Person in his 2nd year at age 24
AC Green in his 11th year at age 32
Kevin Johnson in his 9th year at age 29
Elliot Perry in his 4th year at age 26
Hotrod Williams in his 10th year at age 33
Wayman Tisdale in his 11th year at age 31
Danny Manning in his 8th year at age 29
Joe Kleine in his 11th year at age 34
The average age was 29 and the average years on NBA experience was 7.9 years.
Westphal’s took over the Suns head coaching job after Cotton Fitzsimmons retired and joined the Sun’s front office. Cotton Fitzsimmons coached the team to a 53-29 record in the 91-92 season, their 4th consecutive 50+ win season under Fitzsimmons. In 1992 the Suns under Westphal were able in increase their wins by 9. But, by his fourth season, the team had dropped to 41-41, so PW was fired.
He coached high school ball in Arizona for 2 years before replacing George Karls as head coach in Seattle in 1998. Karl took over Seattle in 92 and lead them to 6 straight 50+ winning seasons, including their 1995-96 64-win season and trip to the NBA Finals. Seattle continued to be a Western Conference powerhouse during the next two seasons, winning 57 games in 1996-97 and 61 games in 1997-98 for their second and third straight Pacific Division titles
At the end of the 1997–98 disagreements with management led Karl to end his tenure as head coach. Westphal lead Seattle to a 25-25 record in the lockout shortened season in 98. Seattle fell to 45-37 and the 7th seed in the West in the 1999-2000 season. And, when Seattle started out 6-9 in 2000-2001, Westphal was fired.
The average age of Westphal’s top 10 players in his first term in Seattle was 31 with no one under 27. The average years of experience on that team were 9.7 years.
He returned to the college ranks in April, 2001 at Pepperdine University. In his first season, Westphal’s team had a 22–9 record and tied nationally ranked Gonzaga for the WCC Title. The team achieved an at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament, but lost 83-74 to Wake Forest in the first round. This was the only postseason berth during Westphal's five-year coaching college ball and he finished with an overall record of 74–72. After a 7–20 season in 2005–06, Westphal was fired. He was only 52-63 in his final 4 years. And on June 10, 2009 after spending time in broadcasting and in the Dallas front office, Westphal was named head coach of the Sacramento Kings.
This is his history, and while there a too many factors to take into consideration to make an evaluation of his coaching style, I make these observations.
As an NBA head coach Paul Westphal had only veteran teams and any rookies on the teams were at the bottom of the rotation in minutes played. Both teams that he took over had extremely successful season the prior 4-5 seasons before his arrival and dropped off considerably in a short period of time while he was head coach. And as with his NBA career, his college career consisted of a successful first season and a rapid fall afterwards.
I make no assessment of his ability to teach or of his offensive and defensive schemes. I’ve done that elsewhere, but it isn’t pertinent to this report. Paul Westphal has a vast amount of experience in the NBA, and is well thought of by his players both past and present. But, his experience with dealing with an extremely young core of ball players had been minimal and mostly unsuccessful. And, while I feel anyone would have had a difficult time coaching this year’s Kings Team, PW may be less qualified than most based on his history.
His contract of 2011-12 is already guaranteed. And, unless the owners and front office are hounding him to win games, I believe he needs to re-evaluate his style. He doesn’t have a veteran team, so he’s going to have to get use to mistakes. It’s time to work with his core and build them into a veteran unit offensively and defensively. If he doesn’t, he has no chance of extending his current contract and most likely won’t last to see the end of it.