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Suns legend Paul Westphal diagnosed with brain cancer

Thoughts and prayers to this man of Faith in this struggle

2019 Basketball Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

He led the Phoenix Suns to their only two NBA Finals appearances in the franchise’s 52 year history, but now former guard and coach Paul Westphal might not be able to enjoy the Suns next one.

Westphal has been diagnosed with brain cancer, revealed today by long time friend Mike Lupicka.

Westphal is the 5th All-Time leading scorer for the Suns franchise, a five-time All-Star, two-time NBA Finals participant (one as a player, one as a head coach), a member of the Suns Ring of Honor and a member of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.

Let’s take a moment to honor the indelible, and sometimes under-appreciated, mark that Westy left on the Suns franchise.


Round one: Suns star shooting guard

In 1976, Westphal led the Suns on an improbable NBA Finals run against the vaunted Boston Celtics in his first year in the valley after coming over from Boston for All-Star Charlie Scott.

You know about the shot Heard round the world, but here’s a nice video on Westy’s stellar play back in those days in that Finals.

From 1977-1980, Westy made four straight All-Star teams, leading the Suns on three more playoff runs, once to the Conference Finals, before being traded away for Dennis Johnson.

But Westy wasn’t done with Phoenix.


Round two: Suns head coach

After retiring from the NBA in 1984 a five-time All-Star, Westphal went into coaching and landed on Cotton Fitzsimmons’ staff back in Phoenix from 1988-1992. After four years on the bench during the team’s post-drug-scandal resurgence, Westphal once again brought the magic in his first year as the head coach.

The rookie head coach had the great pleasure to add Charles Barkley to a Conference Finals team with Kevin Johnson, Tom Chambers and Dan Majerle among others and he led them all the way to the NBA Finals.

When the Suns stumbled out of the gate in those playoffs, going down 0-2 to the Lakers in the first round best-of-five series, Westphal went right to the podium to make a bold proclamation.

“So, we’re down 0-2,” Westphal said. “I know the next question is, ‘Are you guys dead?’ No. We’re going to win the series. We’re going to win one Tuesday and the next game’s Thursday. We’re going to win there and then we’re going to come back and we will win the series on Sunday. And everybody will say what a great series it was.”

Watch this whole video that includes Westy’s guarantee — so many great memories...

No team had ever come back from an 0-2 deficit on their home floor to win a best-of-five series, but no eight seed had ever knocked off a one seed before either.


Final round: TBD

Thoughts and prayers go out to Westy in his struggle in the coming days and months. God Bless this man of Faith.

Bob Young covered Westy as the Suns coach for many years.