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Paul Westphal, the former head coach of the Phoenix Suns and the Seattle SuperSonics, will be introduced tomorrow afternoon as the new head basketball coach at Pepperdine


 

 
 
Paul Westphal, the former head coach of the Phoenix Suns and the Seattle SuperSonics, will be introduced tomorrow afternoon as the new head basketball coach at Pepperdine. A 2 p.m. press conference will be conducted at Heritage Hall on the Pepperdine campus to introduce Westphal as the University's 11th head coach.

Westphal, 50, succeeds Jan van Breda Kolff who resigned as the Waves' head coach on April 8 to accept a similar position at St. Bonaventure. Westphal has signed a five-year contract. No additional terms on the contract were disclosed.

"Basketball is a critical component of the athletics program at Pepperdine, and I am excited that we have hired an outstanding coach to step in and direct our team," said Dr. John Watson, the University's Director of Athletics. "Paul Westphal is a product of a solid basketball background, both as a coach and player, and his ethical values are attractive to a school like Pepperdine."

Pepperdine could return as many as three starters from last year's 22-9 ballclub that advanced to the second round of the National Invitation Tournament (NIT). Junior guard Brandon Armstrong, the league's leading scorer last season at 22.1 points a game, has made himself available for the 2001 NBA Draft, but could return to Pepperdine next season. Dating back to the start of the 1978-79 campaign, Pepperdine teams have compiled a cumulative overall record of 422-264 (.615)-the second-best winning percentage for NCAA Division I programs in California-and advanced to post-season play 15 times, including NCAA Tournament berths in 1979, 1982, 1983, 1985, 1986, 1991, 1992, 1994 and 2000. Pepperdine teams have compiled a combined record of 83-41 (.669) over the last four seasons, advancing to the NCAA Tournament in 2000 and the NIT in 1999 and 2001.

"We are fortunate to have a strong basketball tradition at Pepperdine, and I have every reason to believe that Paul can continue to move our program forward," Watson said. "Paul has compiled an impressive resume as a coach and player, and I am confident that he will elevate our program to a new level of excellence."

Westphal brings more than 12 years of coaching experience to Pepperdine, including stints with the Phoenix Suns and the Seattle SuperSonics. With the Suns, he compiled a 191-88 (.685) record in three-plus seasons and guided the team to the 1993 NBA Finals. Westphal served as the head coach for two-plus seasons in Seattle beginning in 1998, posting a 76-71 (.515) record.

In his three full seasons with Phoenix, the Suns surpassed the 55-victory mark each year, winning two Pacific Division titles (1993 and 1995) and one Western Conference championship (1995).

Westphal began his coaching career in 1985 at Southwestern Baptist Bible College in Phoenix. He directed the team to a 21-9 record and a berth in the 1986 National Little College Athletic Association Tournament. Westphal then became the head coach at Grand Canyon College in Phoenix where he compiled a 63-18 (.778) record in two seasons, including a 37-6 mark and the NAIA national title in 1988.

After three years in the college ranks, Westphal became an assistant coach with the Suns in 1988 where he remained for four seasons before being elevated to the head coaching spot on July 1, 1992. As the head coach at Phoenix, Westphal led the Suns to three of their most successful seasons in franchise history. In his first season in 1992-93, the Suns captured the Pacific Division title, won a club-record 62 games and made just the second appearance in the NBA Finals in team history. The 62 victories broke the NBA record for most victories by a rookie coach set by Bill Russell in 1966-67.

Westphal was released by the Suns 33 games into the 1995-96 season and returned to the NBA as the head coach at Seattle for the lockout-shortened 1998-99 campaign. Westphal directed the SuperSonics to a 25-25 record that year and a 45-37 mark during the 1999-2000 season. Westphal's playing career began as a first-round draft choice by the Boston Celtics (10th pick overall) in 1972. He played 12 seasons in the NBA for Boston, Phoenix, New York and Seattle, and was a five-time NBA All-Star. Westphal was named to the All-NBA first team in 1977, 1979 and 1980.

A three-time All-Pacific 8 Conference performer and a two-time All-American at USC, Westphal averaged 16.4 points in three seasons with the Trojans.

A resident of Manhattan Beach, Westphal graduated from Aviation High in 1968 where he was tabbed the CIF "Player of the Year" as a senior.

Westphal and his wife, Cindy, have two children, Victoria, a recent graduate of Pepperdine, and Michael, a walk-on guard on the Waves' this season.