Paul Westphal had two stints with the Sonics, both ending rather miserably.
The first being the primary piece coming to Seattle in the much despised Dennis Johnson trade in 1980. DJ eventually wound up on the Celtics, helping them establish a dominance over the NBA alongside Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parrish, and the usual Boston suspects. Meanwhile, Westphal delivered one unspectacular season in Seattle with a significant drop off from his performance in Phoenix.
Some would want to credit the “Sports Illustrated Curse” as the reason for his struggles. But I’m not willing to use that as an excuse, as I am flabbergasted by the fact that Westphal was once considered prominent enough to grace the cover a national publication as prestigious as Sports Illustrated.
The Sonics have appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated a grand total of five times.
Remarkably for Westphal, and disappointingly to Sonics fans, one of those five times was used on the 6’4” swingman from USC. If you turned the number of times Westphal represented to Sonics on the cover of Sports Illustrated into a batting average, which for whatever reason seems to be a logical thing for me to do right now, he would have hit .200.
A .200 average in baseball is considered “The Mendoza Line”, named after Mario Mendoza and his signification for being a rather spectacular incompetent hitter. Unsurprisingly Mendoza played for the Mariners at one point. But that discussion belongs on a Mariners blog, or a forum dedicated to helping those with clinical depression.
The Mendoza Line applies well to Westphal’s Seattle career because he was rather spectacular in his failures to act as a reliable player on a championship caliber team. His shooting percentage fell dramatically, he couldn’t stay healthy, and his efficiency was alarmingly average for someone who was supposed to be a star.
Westphal’s one season in Seattle was extremely disappointing, with him exiting the green & gold with his career falling off a cliff. In three years, he would be out of the NBA and haunting Sonics fans as DJ continued to have success in Boston.
It would have been absolute bliss in Seattle if Westphal had remained outside of the city limits for the rest of his life, but he somehow found himself as the new head coach of the team following George Karl’s departure to Milwaukee.
Under Westphal, the Sonics once again fell from a championship caliber team to an average one. After just over two seasons, Westphal was fired in 2000. Howard Schultz purchased the team shortly thereafter.
For the sake of making a rather poor connection, I’ll blame Schultz’ gaining control of the Sonics on Westphal. Perhaps had the team remained a contender, Barry Ackerley would have never sold to the conniving Coffee King.
Damn you, Westphal. Damn you.