Basketball Hall of Famer Paul Westphal, the legendary player from Aviation High in Redondo Beach, who became an All-American at USC before a professional career as a player and coach, has died, it was announced Saturday by close friend and journalist Mike Lupica. Westphal was 70.

Lupica announced in August that Westphal had glioblastoma, which is a rapidly growing, cancerous tumor in the brain.

Westphal was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2019. He was part of the 2018 class for the College Basketball Hall of Fame.

As a pro, Westphal joined a dynasty after being picked in the first round by the Boston Celtics. He won a title in his second year and emerged as one of Boston's most valuable reserves in his third season before he was traded to Phoenix for future Hall of Famer Charlie Scott.

With the Suns, Westphal became a star, making three All-NBA first teams and four All-Star Games. He was later traded for another future Hall of Famer, Seattle's Dennis Johnson, and had another All-Star season with the SuperSonics. After his playing days, he would coach the Suns to the NBA Finals.

Westphal, who was born Nov. 30, 1950, in Torrance, surprised some when he chose USC over UCLA, which had won four of the last five NCAA titles when it was time for him to make a college choice.

"There was no reason to leave Los Angeles," he said in an interview before his Hall of Fame induction. "I guess the bottom line was that I felt if we could win at 'SC, it'd be a bigger deal than winning at UCLA — because UCLA was always winning.

"It was just the challenge of it," Westphal said. "… It was about building the team that could challenge a dynasty. It was the biggest challenge in college basketball — and it was invigorating."

Westphal's coaching career began at small colleges in Arizona, first in 1985 at Southwestern Baptist (now Arizona Christian University), and after one season at Grand Canyon College, which he led to the 1988 NAIA national championship in his second season.

He became an assistant with the Suns for the 1988-89 season before taking over as head coach in 1992. That season he led Phoenix to the 1993 NBA Finals.

Westphal would return to the college coaching ranks with Pepperdine in 2001. In five seasons at the Malibu university he led them to one appearance in the NCAA Tournament.

Following his coaching career, Westphal would become a broadcast analyst for Fox Sports West and Prime Ticket coverage of Lakers and Clippers games.

 

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