He was an assistant coach with the Suns for four seasons before he was named head coach in 1992-93, when they posted the N.B.A.’s best regular-season record at 62-20, led by Charles Barkley, the league’s most valuable player, along with Dan Majerle, Kevin Johnson and Danny Ainge. But the Suns lost to Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls in a six-game championship final.
Westphal coached several outstanding Suns team afterward but was fired in January 1996 when the Suns, riddled with injuries, were playing poorly.
He coached the SuperSonics and the Kings for all or parts of three seasons each and closed out his coaching career as a Nets assistant from 2014 to 2016.
Paul Douglas Westphal was born on Nov. 30, 1950, in Torrance, Calif., a son of Armin and Ruth Westphal. His father, an aeronautical engineer, and his older brother, Bill, shot hoops with him in the family’s driveway when he was young.
He was a basketball star at Aviation High School in Redondo Beach, then played for the University of Southern California for three seasons. He averaged 16.4 points a game and was voted as a second-team all-American in The Associated Press poll for 1971.
Westphal’s survivors include his wife, Cindy; their daughter, Victoria; and a son, Michael. A complete list of survivors was not immediately available.
“In training camp, he told us his greatest asset would be his ability to relate,” Kevin Johnson told The Seattle Times in February 1999, when Westphal was in his first season as the Sonics’ coach. “He was a rookie, he was an All-Star, he was a free agent, he got waived, he was traded, he got old. He’s been through every possible experience.”
Westphal himself felt he had been destined to be a coach. “I hoped to be a player, but always planned on being a coach,” he said. “I was able to play for 12 years and postpone my coaching career.”