On This Date: Knicks waive Paul Westphal

June 20th 1983: Knicks waive Paul Westphal

The New York Knicks waived Paul Westphal on this date. Westphal arrived to the Knicks as a free agent in the 2nd half of the 1981-82 campaign and remained with the team through the 1982-83 season. He started 71 of the 98 games he played as the team’s shooting guard and averaged 10.3 points/game and 5.5 assists/game. He won the NBA’s Comeback Player of the Year in 1983 after helping the team reach the NBA Playoffs.

Westphal had a more storied career with the Boston Celtics & Phoenix Suns, winning a championship in 1974 with the former. He was one of the rare players at the time who could truly play both guard positions. He had the scoring abilities to be the team’s shooting guard, but the passing abilities to play point. He averaged more than 20 points/game for 5 straight seasons from 1976-80 and made the NBA All Star Team each season from 1977-1981.

When Westphal signed with the Knicks, the team placed a stipulation where they had to pick up either two one-year team options or waive him at the end of his contract in 1983. With Westphal making more than $450,000 in the previous season and the team’s tight salary cap at $4.6 million, the Knicks decided to waive him.

The Knicks replaced Westphal with Darrell Walker in the 1983 NBA Draft. Westphal returned to Phoenix for one more year to finish his NBA career. Afterwards, he embarked on his coaching journey beginning in the collegiate ranks in Arizona. He eventually joined the Phoenix Suns staff under Cotton Fitzsimmons and was promoted to head coach in 1992. He took the Suns to the 1993 NBA Finals and reached the playoffs for 2 more seasons before his dismissal midway through the 1995-96 season. He returned to coach the Seattle Supersonics in 1998.

After the team fired him in 2000, Westphal returned to the collegiate ranks coaching Pepperdine University for 6 seasons. The Dallas Mavericks hired Westphal as an assistant under Avery Johnson and remained with the organization until the Sacramento Kings hired him as an assistant coach in 2009. Westphal didn’t enjoy the same success in Sacramento he enjoyed with his previous coaching assignments. The combination of a inexperienced roster and conflicts with budding star DeMarcus Cousins led to his firing early in the 2011-12 season.

Westphal came back to the NBA in 2014 to reunite with his former assistant coach Lionel Hollins in the Brooklyn Nets. He served as his assistant until his firing in 2016. He was recently elected to the Naismith Basketball of Fame in April 2019.

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