You know him now as the coach of the Sacramento Kings, but few men in Phoenix Suns history have had as much impact on the franchise as Paul Westphal. The Suns have made the NBA Finals twice: the 1975-76 Western Conference champion squad featured Westphal as their leading scorer, and Westphal was head coach of the 1992-93 Finals team that pushed Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls to 6 games. 

Follow the jump for more on this Suns legend's role in some of the most memorable moments in team history.

Westphal_player_medium via

Westphal the player and the 1976 Finals

"The Little Team That Could" 1975-76 Suns were only 42-40 during the regular season, but knocked off the Seattle SuperSonics and then upset the defending world champion, Rick Barry's Golden State Warriors, to win the Western Conference. This earned the Suns a Finals berth against the mighty Boston Celtics, led by legends John Havlicek and Dave Cowens. Westphal led this Suns team in scoring (20.5 PPG on 49% FGs) and steals (2.6 per game), and was second in assists (5.4 per game).

Westphal's production continued through the playoffs, culminating with his performance in game 5 of the Finals, a triple overtime epic known by many as "the greatest game ever played." Heavy underdogs, the Suns had battled the Celtics to a 2 games to 2 tie. In game 5, the Suns trailed nearly the whole way, battling back time and time again before the Celtics finally prevailed 128-126. While the game is best known for this incredible shot by Garfield Heard, 
  NBA's 60 Greatest Playoff Moments: #6 (via theehibachi)

Westphal contributed 25 points and several heady plays that kept the Suns in the contest. The Suns lost the game, and the following game 6 as the Celtics won their eighth world championship, but this series is remembered as one of the most entertaining in NBA Finals history.

Westphal the coach and the 1992-93 Suns

The Suns had something of a rebirth in 1992. America West Arena, "The Purple Palace", replaced Veterans Memorial Coliseum as the team's home arena, superstar Charles Barkley was brought to the team in a blockbuster trade, and Danny Ainge was signed as a free agent. Promoted from assistant coach to replace the "retiring" (he would later come back) head coach Cotton Fitzsimmons was Paul Westphal.

This was a talented Suns team, possibly the most talented in team history with Barkley, Kevin Johnson, Dan Majerle, Danny Ainge, Tom Chambers, Cedric Ceballos, Richard Dumas and Oliver Miller. You might not know about Richard Dumas, but he was an elite athlete who eventually lost his career due to a drug problem. And, don't laugh at my inclusion of Oliver Miller. He was in the best shape of his life then, and the man could play. Despite his weight issues, he carved out a 9 year NBA career due to his raw talent.

Never known as an exceptional strategist or tactician as a head coach, Westphal instead proved himself as a manager of egos, which was exactly what this star-studded team needed. They won 62 games in the regular season, a franchise record that still stands, then went on to battle Jordan's Bulls in the 1993 NBA finals, eliminating the Lakers, Spurs and SuperSonics along the way. Down 0-2 in the first round best of 5 series to the 8th seed Lakers, Westphal made this famous statement: "We're gonna win the series."

  1993 NBA Playoffs: Phoenix Suns vs Los Angeles Lakers (via ginoongkamote)

The Suns delivered on Westphal's bold prediction, beating the hated Lakers on the way to a Finals run that electrified the city through the spring of 1993. There was no shame at all in finally losing to Jordan's Bulls in 6 games.

No other Suns figure has this sort of connection with the two most successful teams in franchise history. The next time the Suns play Sacramento, where Westphal currently coaches, raise of glass of your favorite beverage for the man who gave Suns fans so many memorable moments.

The New York Knicks have gone from long-time lottery players to a playoff team and the Phoenix Suns have gone from long-time playoff team to the brink of the lottery after star forward Amare...

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The Suns don't play again until Monday, so here are some links to keep you in the NBA spirit. Oh and yeah I went out of my way to post a missed dunk video. Aren't we all a bit tired of watching Blake finish the dunks?

  • Pietrus Upbeat Despite Falling out of Rotation: Coro AZ Republic
  • "I don't believe in personal success," Pietrus said. "I believe in team success. I think if you're not playing, you still come in and work hard for your team and good things are going to happen. Two years ago, nobody believed the Magic would go to the NBA Finals, and we did because we kept working hard every day. I'm a nine-year vet, so I know how to take it."

    "Our goal should be to win at least four," forward Jared Dudley said. "I know, for us, every win is big, but our mentality is to go and steal one in New York, and then Cleveland's struggling, Wizards are struggling, Philly's struggling, Detroit's struggling. This could be a good road trip for us and turn our season around."

    Donald Sterling unloads when asked for his opinion Clippers owner blasts commissioner for not taking a harder line against the players' union.

    Frankly, neither side can really win the P.R. game -- the NBA is seeing record ratings, teams spent incredible sums last summer and players are doing what players do: making and spending cash.

    "You've got to look around the league. Who's really doing better than him out there? I'm sure there are guys out there close to him, but he deserves it. You look at our record. You look at how he plays each game and how he's taking over games. I really think he's up there with the MVP talk."

    Rose didn't want LeBron taking the ball out of his hands, nor respect out of the room. Eventually, Rose reached out, but only out of a sense of duty. Rose didn't want James, nor did Rose particularly want Wade to make a Chicago homecoming. During early July, Rose shut himself in the gym and worked on his game. The soap opera bored him. "If they wanted to come here, they would've come here," Rose told Yahoo! Sports Saturday night.


    PHOENIX — All the talk of rock bottom and blowing this thing up is missing one key fact. After Friday’s 115-111 victory over Portland, the Suns trail the Blazers by a mere one game in the...

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    No foul on the play right? Right. Whatever. (AP Photo/Paul Connors)

    More photos » Paul Connors - AP

    No foul on the play right? Right. Whatever. (AP Photo/Paul Connors)

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    The missing Phoenix Suns team that you've been seeing on your milk carton for the past few months returned home for 48 minutes tonight.  They played the brand of basketball that purple and orange fans have taken for granted for years.  I almost couldn't remember the last time I felt this engaged watching a game... it seems like forever.  To see the Suns compete like they did tonight was a refreshing gorge of water for this fan's parched confidence. 

    The comeback and overtime win in New Jersey undoubtedly elevated the squashed confidence and unity of this team and the result was a full 48 minutes of solid effort, grit, and heart from every member of the team who stepped on the court tonight in a critical game.

    I called this the Suns toughest game in their '2 week season' - Seth called it an important game, and with playoff indications in the back of everyone's mind the Suns came together and pulled off a huge, emotional win against the Portland Trail Blazers.  With so they effectively avoided the season series sweep (1-3) from the Blazers and have now won consecutive games for the first time since the first week of December.  This could be exactly what this team needs to put together a good run as they eye a favorable schedule and get ready to head out on an extended road trip.

    Let's check out some of the goodies from the game - Jump it fools!

    Final - 1.14.2011 1 2 3 4 Total
    Portland Trail Blazers 36 23 27 25 111
    Phoenix Suns 28 28 29 30 115

    Complete Coverage >


    Let's do the Eutychus evaluation.  I'm not one to praise myself.... wait yeah I am.  Let's see how I did with the preview, here are my focus points.

    Two Weeks

    I said this would be a tough game - our toughest game in the petri-dish window and wow it was a nail-biter.  We can all take confidence away from this win.   We're now 2-1, and in the post-game interview Vince Carter was asked, "what do you expect this team to do on your up-coming road trip?", Vince - "Shoot - Win em' all, why not!? ... this is a confidence booster going on the road ... we're playing better basketball."  Preach Vince. Preach.  I think the Suns can win them all, especially if they continue to build on this momentum and remember the effort they put on the table tonight.

    Wes Mathews

    I said,

    Wes Mathews is no exception - he's averaging 17.6 points against the Suns this season and is a huge reason the Blazers have scored over 100 points in their 3 meetings so far against us (when the team averages only 95 ppg otherwise).  Here's the part where I would say - look for him to have a big game because he's due, especially since he's gone cold shooting over the past 6 games and only hit 2 of 12 from behind the arc.  It would seem only fitting that he'd wake up and shake the slump against the Suns right?

    He played 40 minutes and scored a game high 26 points, and netted 5 of 10 three point shots... The Suns-Killer Rule was definitely in effect because he was on fire from the opening tip.  Man you called it Eutychus.

    So.... was he injured?  It sure as heck didn't look like it.. Nic Batum also had an above average game as he usually does against us - and Andre Miller was hitting shots that he doesn't make anywhere else except when he's playing against the orange and purple.

    Brandon Roy

    I said he would be out and he was definitely out.  Bam.  I'm good.

    LaMarcus Aldridge

    I said,

    LaMarcus Aldridge will be that guy that the Suns will need to lock down tonight.  He has been on absolute fire for the past two weeks.  The Blazers are coming off of back-to-back home losses coming into tonight's game... but Aldridge is riding a 6 game double-double streak and is averaging 26.4 ppg over the last 7.

    Well hot dang - He put up 25 points on 9 of 15 shooting and 7-9 from the line - he was the go-to play for the Blazers.  They went to him on the first play of the game and he scored on Channing Frye, in fact in the first half he was seemingly unstoppable and seemed like he was hitting everything he threw at the rim (along with EVERYONE in a Blazer's uniform)... but when they went to him in the second half and in crunch time - Channing's D, and effective double-teams prevailed.  And guess what? LMA only had 4 rebounds.  Suck it dude.  Hope you enjoyed your 6 game double-double streak because IT. IS. OVER.  Bam.  More points for me.

    Marcus Camby

    I said,

    Dude had 18 rebounds against us last game... he's always a problem for the Suns.  Here's to hoping he doesn't do that again.

    Camby's rebounding total?  ... Drumroll please ... 15!   yeeeeessss.  Right again Eutychus.  It sure wasn't 18! In all seriousness - you're not going to stop Camby from getting his rebounds really.  The guy has a reputation as being a defender and a rebound machine and so the refs let him get away with going over the back and tipping and poking the ball up to himself, all the time.    But the really impressive part of the Suns game today?  The Suns actually out-rebounded the Blazers.  Let that soak in.

    I said,

    Most of all, from the Suns we need 48 minutes of effort.  We're all tired of the hot and cold spell roller-coaster games ... All I really want to see is effort.   Let's do this.

    With the exception of a short run at the start of the 2nd quarter where the Suns found themselves down by 10, this happened.  The Suns played a full effort-riddled 48 minutes of basketball.

    On a sour note, I said this in the thread to the preview:

    foul trouble could be big – we’ll see how the refs are calling the game. They always seem to give credit to Portland (meaning calls go their way) when things get physical because of their rep… hopefully some home court cookin’ is in effect

    Yeah that happened too - everything except the home cookin'.  This was probably the worst officiated game I've watched all season.  We've seen the Suns get down in the dumps when the refs affect the game before - but tonight they stayed mentally tough, even though Steve Nash and Goran Dragic picked up technical fouls in the first half and Nash was pissed off early and often by the officiating they continued to work hard and hustle.  

    After Nash was whistled for his tech (he kicked the ball in frustration after a stop in play) he was all over the camera screaming livid profanity at someone - maybe the ref, maybe a Blazer, but after that you could see a spark in everyone on the Suns' eyes.  Even Zabian Dowdell who played only 34 seconds at the end of the first half impacted the game with his hustle as he stole the ball in the backcourt and was hacked and fouled on his way to the rim... but of course there was no foul called. It was a 'clean strip'.  I don't enjoy criticizing the officiating but it definitely affected the game tonight and luckily the Suns were able to battle through it and players rose to the challenge and pulled out a victory despite the obstacle. 

    Other Notables

    • BAMF - aka Grant Hill is a man.  16,000 points in the NBA.  Congratulations man, I'm a proud owner of a 33 jersey.  He did his fair share of work tonight netting 21 points and grabbing 7 rebounds.  He had a great game.
    • Steve Nash - oh just another double-double with 23 points 13 assists and 6 rebounds.  He was clutch. MVSteve performance.
    • Warrick - made a ton of great hustle plays including some game clinching rebounds.  He was the good Hakim out there tonight, not the one that everyone wants to trade as they rosterbate.  Don't count me in that group, I like his game in here with the Suns and my posts support that.
    • Channing Frye - Great D - great hustle and 3 BIG blocked shots.   12 and 8.  I like what he is becoming for this team.
    • Dudley - was huge.  He hit another 4 point play tonight that shot an injection of emotion into the arena and his teammates.  He was a huge factor in this game and a major contributor in the solid effort form our bench tonight.
    • Vince Carter - had his share of Vince-moments on both offense and defense, but the dude hit the shots he needed to hit when it counted and also made a few good defensive plays on the other end of things.

    All in all I will sleep a happy man tonight.  I look forward to watching the next games.

    What did you guys think of the game?

    Check out what the Bedgers have to say,


    [Note by Seth Pollack, 01/15/11 12:49 AM MST ]

    That was kind of fun to see the Suns actually play well and beat a team with a winning (barely) record.

    Full recap:


    Phoenix Suns Battle Back To Get Much Needed Win Over Trail Blazers, 115-111 - SB Nation Arizona
    "I thought Hak (Hakim Warrick) did a great job. I thought he had energy, he came in with energy. Came up with a couple of big plays for us, made a couple of good passes and that's the kind of play we would like to have consistently from him off the bench. If he can do that for us night in and night out, I think we'll be in good good shape," Gentry said.

    Audio: Gentry postgame 011411

    Audio: Hill postgame 011411


    Game Notes

    1st Qtr

    • Bruce Bowen in the house doing analysis for ESPN 3D
    • LMA scores in the post over Frye. Ho hum
    • Batum tries to post up Nash and fails...that's an extra double fail
    • Those three-point goggles the Blazers do is so fucking stupid
    • Wes Matthews easily runs Vince off a screen and gets an open three and then drives by him with no problem. Who's got the bum ankle?
    • Gentry talked about those spin lob dunks in this pregame...obviously knowing it's coming doesn't translate to stopping it
    • Hill dunk! BAMF!
    • Nash gives up a lot of size to Batum but he's trying to fight with him. Tough little fucker, that Steve Nash
    • The entire arena groaned in unison on that turnover...oooooohh
    • Great weakside block from Frye
    • Nash sitting early w/ two fouls and a T. Dragic in at 5:33, 19-16, Portland
    • Frye has his shot on tonight
    • Suns on a 6-2 run to go up 22-21 after Dragic transition layup in traffic and Grant's post up on Miller
    • Very good defense but couldn't finish the play w/ the rebound. Camby knocked it away from Gortat
    • They are calling a lot of touch fouls off the annoying
    • Two quick buckets for Patty Mills in transition
    • Wow, that was a quick T on Dragic
    • Wes Matthews with a buzzer-beating, falling down three to end the quarter...teams just have so much confidence when the play the Suns
    • 36-28, Blazers

    2nd Qtr

    • Suns body language is horrible...they look defeated and like they don't have a clue what to do about it
    • Vince Carter is a master at spinning away from contact
    • Well, OK. They are actually playing pretty hard. Even Hak had a nice aggressive trap
    • 38-28, Suns. Can't get any offense going from this 2nd unit
    • Nash back in. 41-28, Blzrs
    • Nice defense on that possession and then a basket on the other end. Need more of those because that's how you get back in the game. Get stops and score. That might seem obvious but obviously it's not or I wouldn't have typed it. Ipso Facto, suckers
    • Matthews with another lucky bounce on that 3. JD answers but doesn't flash any dumb ass three goggles
    • Miller barking about a defensive three, Gentry pissed that he didn't get T'd up like Goran and Steve did. He has a point
    • Dudley running the wing wisely goes to the corner instead of the rim, earns the possible 4 point play
    • I really think the Suns miss Jason Richardson's emotional leadership and competitive spirit
    • Nice block, Robin
    • Great hard trap on LaMarcus by Robin. That's how you double team the freaking ball, son!
    • Three from Grant makes it 49-51 game w/ 2:12 to go
    • Damn, Grant looks like he tweaked his knee again. He's staying in of course
    • Zabian getting some run, probably just to make the SI story about him more interesting. And yes, SI is doing an extensive feature on Zabian Dowdell being a 10-day call up
    • Vince Carter iso at the end of the half = disaster. Shocking, that
    • Well, it could be worse. 59-56, Blazers

    3rd Qtr

    • In case anyone is wondering, the reason there's all these young kids dancing troupe things at half time is b/c it's a way for the Suns to sell more tickets. The kids and their parents all buy seats plus the team doesn't have to pay for the "entertainment". That's why you are constantly being subjected to 8-year-old girl shaking themselves all over the court which is something no one should have to watch. If the team was better and selling more tickets there would be a lot less of this nonsense
    • 4th foul on Robin on the offensive end...not sure about that one
    • Make up non-call there on Robin. Easily could have picked up his 5th on Camby who was going after him. Yes, a team was trying to get Robin in foul trouble. That's actually progress
    • Blazers are constantly looking to take advantage of Nash on the defensive end, that's basically their entire offensive game plan
    • Bennett Salvatore really not showing the Suns much love. He's the guy who T'd up Nash and Dragic and just called Hill for a charge that was really a Batum flop
    • Gentry timeout - Blzrs on 13-8 run to start qtr after Suns held Portland to 23 points in 2nd
    • Hey, Vince did something impressive!
    • Nash says FUCK YOU to the fool that went under that screen and left him wide open
    • Wes Matthews answers back with an FUCK YOU shot with Nash trying to guard him
    • 78-76, Blzrs timeout. Nice little push since the Gentry time out
    • 16,000 points for Grant Hill....
    • Gortat almost Earl Barron'd that layup
    • Gortat again gets beat by Marcus Camby for an offensive rebound
    • Robin might not be collecting rebounds, but I am fairly sure he did a better job keeping Camby off the glass
    • Suns up 83-82 after Grant's three
    • Well, that didn't last long. Miller gets a bucket and some free throws. 86-83, Portland
    • Pietrus in for Hill who picked up his 4th foul. Lets see what MP do
    • Gortat does play pretty good individual defense on guys like Pau and Aldridge
    • Good hustle on that rebound w/ everyone crashing leads to transition 2 for Nash
    • Smart foul by Dudley. Not in the penalty and he was beat by Miller
    • 86-85, Blzrs. Strong finish to the quarter.

    4th Qtr

    • There are advantages to working in a loud place if and when one should happen to need to pass a little gas. Not that I would know anything about that
    • Suns fourth quarter crowd finally showing up
    • Holy Hell, Frye with the flying-in tip-back
    • Great effort by Warrick after getting switched on to Wesley...knocked the ball away into the back court. He needs to play like this more frequently...every time would be nice too
    • Wes Matthews gets a lot of lucky bounces....
    • Really like the way this unit is fighting right now
    • Good rotations off that double team on LMA. Wes still hit the shot but it was good stuff
    • Suns running some effective pick and rolls...Blazers closing off the roll so Goran finding the open shooters on the wing. Looks sharp
    • Robin and Zabian up cheering...they are gonna get fined if they stand too long. There's an NBA school marm who literally sits up here in press row with binoculars and watches for stuff like that
    • Wes didn't foul Warrick on the shot but he did foul him before the move
    • Grant coming back in for MP. Nash not yet. 6:36. 98-97, Suns. Warrick missed both FTAs
    • Really some good rotations off the double teams on LaMarcus tonight
    • Suns only 62% (13-21) from the FT line...yuck
    • Robin Lopez scores in the post over Miller...he's way out-played Gortat in this game
    • Camby doesn't even pretend to rotate over to cut off Nash so he hits an easy floater off the pick and roll. Blzrs time out. 102-97, Suns
    • This is the best I've seen this team play in a long time...since that time out about 4 min into the 3rd quarter
    • LaMarcus just shoved Grant with a forearm when he double teamed but didn't get the call...horrible
    • Robin gave Nash a little bear hug after that Blazers turnover...which came after Robin turned the ball over and before Nash turned it right back over and fouled Miller and sent him to the line. 102-101, Suns. 3:09
    • Blazers are now going to trap Nash hard on the screens. That time they fouled him but the team needs to be ready b/c they are going to keep blitzing him
    • Miller hitting contested jump shots...damn
    • Vince! Iso drive and 1. Gentry pissed about Robin not setting the high screen for Nash faster
    • Robin Lopez with clutch free throws...not sure I've ever seen this before. He went 1-1
    • Nash with the huge three! 111-108. 1 min
    • Carter getting to the line. Life is so much better when he goes into contact and not away from it
    • It's even better when he makes free throws. 112-109, Suns. 29 sec. Portland ball
    • Excellent. Suns don't double LaMarcus that time, he misses and Warrick skies for the rebound, falling with both hands still on the ball. Suns up 112-109 with the ball and 19 seconds. Free throw time
    • Even Nash missed a free throw...but he hit the other so 4 pt lead w/ 14 sec. Don't foul a three point shooter
    • 115-111, 4.4 sec. That's the ball game folks.
    • Good win. Feels really good to say that again.

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