Paul Westhead, who coached the Los Angeles Lakers to the 1980 NBA championship, was introduced Tuesday as the next head coach of the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury.
"I'm accustomed to coaching professional athletes in the NBA, but I'm equally excited that I'm coaching the best women athletes in the world, Diana Taurasi as an example of that," Westhead said, adding that he's never coached women's basketball, but expects the transition to be seamless.
Westhead, 66,replaces Carrie Graf on the Mercury bench. Graf's contract was not renewed after the Mercury finished 16-18 and one game out of a playoff berth for the second consecutive season. Graf led the Mercury to a 33-35 record in her two seasons in Phoenix.
With stops in Los Angeles, Chicago and Denver, Westhead, who spent the past two seasons as an assistant coach with the NBA's Orlando Magic, compiled a 184-224 record as an NBA head coach.
Known for producing teams with explosive, high-scoring styles of play, Westhead also led Loyola Marymount to three consecutive NCAA tournament berths, including an Elite Eight berth in 1990. He compiled a record of 105-48 spanning five seasons at LMU, and has also coached collegiately at LaSalle and George Mason.
"Hands down, Paul Westhead represents the best available coach, I think not only to improve what's going to happen on the basketball court but to elevate the awareness and the prestige of this organization," said Mercury and Suns president Bryan Colangelo.
Robert Sarver, managing partner of the Mercury and the NBA's Suns, said he put a high priority on hiring a coach with a lengthy resume.
"We've got one of the best players in the league that we're building around, and our performance over the past couple of seasons has been unacceptable," Sarver said.