- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 29, 2009


“I don’t want to hear anybody talking about the young fellas, putting anything on them. I can take whatever anybody wants to give me, but don’t dish it on them. Dish it all on me.” — Kansas point guard Sherron Collins after the Jayhawks lost to Michigan State in the NCAA tournament


In a surprise move, the University of Oregon last week hired Paul Westhead to coach its women’s basketball team. Ladies, start your engines.

“We’re going to shoot the ball every five seconds or less,” he told reporters, “preferably less.”

Westhead will coach anyone wearing shorts and sneakers, his foot jammed merrily on the throttle. He has coached college and pro, men and women, here and abroad, preaching and teaching what he calls the “speed game.” He is 70, but like his teams, Westhead refuses to slow down.

The style might not always work but it’s always fun to watch, if not necessarily play. Westhead ran the Los Angeles Lakers to an NBA title in 1980. He also ticked off Magic Johnson, among others, and was fired within two years.

The speed game worked best at Loyola Marymount, which raced to three straight NCAA tournaments. Led by Bo Kimble and the late Hank Gathers, the Lions averaged more than 122 points a game and got to the Elite Eight in 1990. Seventeen years and many stops later, Westhead won a WNBA title with the Phoenix Mercury.

Often, however, the opposition also runs wild. His Denver Nuggets once gave up 107 points to the Phoenix Suns — in the first half. That season Denver yielded an NBA record 130.8 points a game. Westhead’s system failed to take hold at George Mason, where he became the answer to the trivia question, “Who preceded Jim Larranaga?”

Westhead’s wife said he has coached 18 teams in their 46 years of marriage. He is a human jumper cable, and the dormant Oregon program needs a jolt.

“It’s an adventurous selection,” a university sports marketer told the Oregonian.

With Paul Westhead, it always is.

TWT Five » Top draft picks by most recent teams with the worst NBA record

1. Michael Beasley, Miami; The forward is a great scorer off the bench, but his defense is shaky.

2. Mike Conley, Memphis; The inconsistent point guard is showing recent improvement.

3. Tyrus Thomas, Portland; He was traded to Chicago for the draft rights to LaMarcus Aldridge — a steal for the Trail Blazers.

4. Marvin Williams, Atlanta; The adequate small forward was picked ahead of Chris Paul and Deron Williams.

5. Dwight Howard, Orlando; The league’s best center is the face of the franchise.

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