EUGENE, Ore. - University of Oregon Athletic Director Pat Kilkenny ushered in a new era of Oregon women’s basketball with the announcement of Paul Westhead as the program’s newest head coach.
Known for executing an exciting brand of run-and-gun basketball, Westhead recently coached the Phoenix Mercury to a WNBA championship in 2007. His latest hardware made him the only head coach to win a championship in both the NBA and WNBA.
A veteran basketball coach with a resume that spans nearly four decades, Westhead has coached in the NBA and WNBA, as well as the men’s collegiate ranks. This will be Westhead’s first head coaching job with a NCAA women’s basketball program.
“In searching for a new coach, we had several goals in mind,” Kilkenny said. “First, we wanted the coach to fit the Oregon culture of being exciting, innovative and entertaining. I can’t think of anyone better than coach Westhead to do just that. Over the years, Paul Westhead coached teams are the epitome of exciting and entertaining basketball. He clearly has a reputation as one of the top teachers of the game on both the men’s and women’s side.
“Secondly, we wanted to find a coach that would broaden the appeal of women’s basketball in general, and help transform the way the game is played on the west coast. Currently we have a wonderful, dedicated group of fans who support our women’s basketball program, and with their help opening the doors to all Duck fans, our home court will be one of the toughest places to play in the country.”
The sixth head coach in the history of the Oregon women’s basketball program, Westhead comes to the UO after serving as an assistant coach for the Oklahoma City Thunder for one year (2007-08). He headed to Oklahoma City less than two months after winning the WNBA championship in 2007.
An innovative coach with a signature up-tempo style, Westhead translated that approach to the women’s game when he was hired by the Mercury on Oct. 11, 2005. It took him less than two seasons to build a championship-caliber squad, as he guided Phoenix to its first WNBA championship in 2007.
During two seasons, Westhead led the Mercury to a 41-27 (.603) record, the highest winning percentage in franchise history, as well as a franchise-record 23 victories in 2007. His up-tempo style also set WNBA records for scoring average for two consecutive seasons.
Prior to his time in the WNBA with the Phoenix Mercury, Westhead spent two years (2003-05) as an assistant coach with the NBA’s Orlando Magic.
The 70-year-old last coached in the NCAA from 1993-97 at George Mason University. Prior to that stint, Westhead spent two seasons (1990-91 & 1991-92) as the head coach of the Denver Nuggets after his historic stint with the Loyola Marymount men’s basketball program.
Westhead spent five years (1985-90) at LMU, helping the Lions to become an impressive program and legitimate contender in NCAA men’s hoops. During his tenure with the Lions, Westhead built a 105-48 (.603) record, leading the Lions to three consecutive NCAA tournament appearances and a run to the Elite Eight in 1990.
Westhead’s other coaching stints included the head job with the Chicago Bulls during the 1982-83 season and the Los Angeles Lakers. Westhead’s NBA head coaching career began in Los Angeles with the Lakers organization, lasting nearly three years (1979-82). In 1979, Westhead succeeded Jack McKinney, leading the Lakers to the 1980 NBA championship with rookie guard Magic Johnson and NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabaar on the roster.
The collegiate ranks was where Westhead began his head coaching career at LaSalle University in 1970. In nine seasons (1970-79) with the Explorers, Westhead led the team to one NIT, two NCAA Tournament performances and a 142-105 record.
In a combined 18 seasons at the college level at LaSalle, Loyola Marymount and George Mason, Westhead comprised a 285-223 (.561) record.
Known for his high-scoring offensive techniques, Westhead has also spent time with the USA basketball programs, and in 2005 was a guest clinician at the USA women’s youth development festival teams in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Westhead has also been a head coach in the ABA (2000-01) and the Japanese Pro League (2001-03).
A native of Philadelphia, Pa., Westhead graduated from St. Joseph’s (PA) in 1961. He and his wife, Cassie, have four children: Monica, Patrice, Paul Jr., and Julie.
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