(Reuters) – Paul Westphal, a Basketball Hall of Fame guard and later a successful NBA coach, died on Saturday at the age of 70, the Phoenix Suns said, months after he was diagnosed with brain cancer.
The five-time NBA All-Star and former first-round pick won the NBA championship early in his career with the Boston Celtics in 1974, before joining the Suns in 1975. He led Phoenix to its first NBA Finals appearance a year later and averaged 20.6 points over six seasons with the team.
After his playing career, he returned to the Suns first as an assistant and later as head coach, leading the team once again to the NBA Finals in 1993, where they lost to Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls.
“Westy will not be immortalized for just playing basketball. He will be remembered for how he lived his life, and how he treated others,” the Suns said.
Former owner Jerry Colangelo said there were few who equalled Westphal’s “influence and significance” on the Suns.
“Off the court, he was a gentleman, a family man, great moral character,” said Colangelo. “He represented the Suns the way you want every player to represent your franchise.”
Overall, Westphal averaged 15.6 points per game and 4.4 assists through his playing career.
He held coaching positions with the Dallas Mavericks, Sacramento Kings and Brooklyn Nets, before he was inducted as a player into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2019.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver called him “one of the great all-around players” of his time.
“He will be remembered for his generosity, leadership and love for the game,” Silver said in a written statement.
(Reporting by Amy Tennery; editing by Clare Fallon)