Is head coach Paul Westhead to blame for Oregon women’s basketball’s losing season?

Oregon head coach Paul Westhead protests a call during the Ducks' 63-53 loss to Oregon State January 15, 2013 at Matthew Knight Arena. (Alex McDougall/Emerald)

Oregon head coach Paul Westhead protests a call during the Ducks' 63-53 loss to Oregon State January 15, 2013 at Matthew Knight Arena. (Alex McDougall/Emerald)

Posted by Matt Walks and Aubrey Wieber on Monday, Feb. 18 at 10:27 am.

It has been a brutal season for Oregon women’s basketball.

The Ducks (4-22 overall, 2-12 Pac-12) are currently in the middle of a six-game losing streak, losing each game by an average of 22.5 points. With just five games left — and three of those against ranked opponents — Oregon fans are hoping for any kind of highlight before the season ends.

In this golden year of Oregon sports, the mounting losses beg the question: Is head coach Paul Westhead accountable?

Yes, by Matt Walks — Simply put, Oregon is unlikely to fire Westhead. Under the 70-year-old coach’s contract, the University would be required to pay whatever remains on his $3.2 million price tag if it makes the decision to terminate Westhead before March 2014.

But this hasn’t simply been a poor season — it’s going to be the worst in the history of the program. That was precisely the negative distinction that got previous coach Bev Smith canned after a 9-21 campaign in 2008.

At some point you have to overlook the injuries and point to the bench.

“We need more leadership,” freshman Jillian Alleyne said following Friday’s loss to Washington. Alleyne has been a rare bright spot for the team this season, and her 12.3 rebounds per game are seventh-best in the country, but that may have something to do with the Ducks’ abysmal 34 percent shooting from the field, which ranks 325th in the nation.

Westhead is a talented coach, but he’s much too far along in his career to change his go-go-go style. His inflexibility — or stubbornness, depending on how you look at it — to change schemes and unwavering faith in his shooters has prevented Oregon from being a competitive team all season.
Since his inaugural year as head coach in 2009, Westhead has failed to field a winning team. At a University that recently fired its women’s soccer coach for being mediocre, something has to change. Oregon is going backward, not forward, and it’s historic how far back they’ve gone.

No, by Aubrey Wieber — The list of problems with Oregon’s women’s basketball team is long. They turn the ball over 21 times per game but only average 11 assists. They shoot 34 percent. They have attempted 579 three pointers, a shot they only make 27 percent of the time.

At times this can be confusing for Duck fans. Westhead is supposedly an offensive guru, so why is his team so incompetent on that side of the ball?

The most obvious answer is the team has been swallowed up by injuries. Their starting point guard and projected leading scorer are both out for the season, and nearly every other player has spent some part of the season unavailable. During the worst stretch of the season the Ducks only had seven scholarship players able to suit up.

This has forced players out of their natural positi0ns, as well as giving inexperienced players an unfair responsibility to be productive on the court. The outcome has been catastrophic.

Placing all the blame on Westhead seems easy. He has openly said many times he will never discourage his shooters, even when they take head-scratchingly deep three pointers early in the shot clock. His quick system has led to turnovers rather than buckets, and over a relatively large sample size — nearly an entire season — the Ducks have failed to learn from their mistakes.

That said, Westhead simply doesn’t have much to work with. He doesn’t have a pure point guard, which is crucial to his style of play. He lacks a go-to scorer which kills the Ducks in the rare moments they find themselves in crunch time.

He certainly hasn’t been brilliant from the bench, but with all the instability surrounding the program throughout the season, a coach as accomplished as Westhead is deserves a pass on a horrific season. However, if he wants to re-sign with Oregon after next season, the final year on his current contract, he better find a way to win games in the 2013-14 season.



  • http://www.facebook.com/gary.mcauley.39 Gary McAuley

    If there is one sport Oregon Ducks should excell at, it is Women’s Basketball due to the amount of high school talent in the State. Yet all this in-state talent ends up going to Tennessee, Louisville or a Stanford. This has been going on for both the regime of Westhead and Smith. We need a local coach – exactly what Oregon State did – to resurrect the program, someone ingratiated with the local high school coaches. My god, if we just pulled in Oregon talent alone (!) we’d be a Top 20 or Top 10 program every year.

  • Danny Sparkman

    Would tend to agree with A Wieber’s comments. We really haven’t seen a team that has been fully capable of running this type of speed system injury free (perhaps 1st season with current coach we saw a glimpse). With the unfortunate injuries and lack of production from perimeter shooting & other awful stats, we are witnessing an awful season right now. With new recruits coming soon (recruited by coach W.) & with maturing of a couple of freshmen players we might see some positive changes. I say wait some time before a possible coaching change is seriously considered.

  • Eddie Leo

    I’m afraid you are using the phrase “begs the question” incorrectly. What you mean is “raises the question.” Here are some additional questions you might ask: Is Coach Westhead’s performance worthy of the $675,000 he is receiving this year? Could we get better results for the same (or even less) money? Can the program recover from this disastrous year? Does the university care?

  • Eddie Leo

    I’m afraid you are using the phrase “begs the question” incorrectly. What you mean is “raises the question.” Here are some additional questions you might ask: Is Coach Westhead’s performance worthy of the $675,000 he is receiving this year? Could we get better results for the same (or even less) money? Can the program recover from this disastrous year? Does the university care?

  • Oregon Alumni

    Quality coaches don’t just get stupid overnight. This coach has won at all levels he has been at. Coaches are nothing without outstanding players, without them you get the results Oregon is currently getting. The big question is recruiting. This university has the resources and facilities to attract the top talen in the NW. This is where it starts. This coach knows talent when he see’s it, but seems to have problems with the connect that is needed for todays recruits. The head coach has to love recruiting, and has to get out there in the trenches. His staff is out there, he seems to disappear. This is the problem.