USC All-American and basketball Hall of Fame guard Paul Westphal, who led the Trojans to their best season in history, died today (Jan. 2) of brain cancer in Scottsdale, Ariz. He was 70.
“Paul was admired by his family, friends and the entire Trojan community,” said current USC men’s basketball head coach Andy Enfield. “He had a huge impact on the game of basketball as a player and coach at both the collegiate and professional levels. Paul was as nice a person and as caring an individual as you will ever meet. The Trojan Family sends condolences to Paul’s family.”
“Paul had it all,” said former men’s basketball assistant coach Jim Hefner, who recruited Westphal to USC from Aviation High in Redondo Beach (Calif.). “He was one of the best basketball players to ever play at USC. His leadership qualities and work ethic were second to none. He was the best player and the leader on the best team in USC basketball history. He was a fabulous father and loving husband to Cindy. As a player and person, USC lost one of the very best.”
— USC Men’s Basketball (@USC_Hoops) January 2, 2021
Westphal was a key member of the 1971 USC team that posted a 24-2 record, a then-school record for wins and a still-standing USC mark for winning percentage (92.3%). The next year, he was an All-American first team guard and team captain. A 3-time letterman (1970-72) who averaged 16.9 points a game in his career, he led the Trojans in scoring in 1972 with a 20.3 average.
The 10th pick of the 1972 draft, he starred in the NBA with the Boston Celtics (including the 1974 NBA champions), Phoenix Suns, Seattle SuperSonics and New York Knicks. He scored 12,397 points during his 12-year NBA career and averaged 15.6 points and 4.4 assists per game in his career. He was a 5-time NBA All-Star and 3-time All-NBA first teamer. He was the NBA Comeback Player of the Year in 1983.
He then began his coaching career, first at several small colleges (his 1988 Grand Canyon College team won the NAIA national championship), then as an NBA assistant with the Suns. He was the Suns’ head coach for 4 seasons (1993-96), guiding the 1993 club to the NBA Finals, before taking over the Seattle SuperSonics and then at Pepperdine, and finally serving as an assistant with the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks, Sacramento Kings and Brooklyn Nets. He also served as a basketball broadcaster on FOX Sports Net.
He was inducted into the USC Athletic Hall of Fame in 1997, the Phoenix Suns Ring of Honor in 1998, the Pac-12 Hall of Honor in 2008, the College Basketball Hall of Fame in 2018 and the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2019. His No. 25 Trojan jersey hangs in the rafters of USC’s Galen Center.
He is survived by his wife, Cindy, two children and a number of grandchildren.