The “Guru of Go” has officially ended his run at Oregon.
Paul Westhead, considered by many to be one of the most innovative coaches in the game of basketball, left the University of Oregon women’s basketball team after a five-year tenure that resulted in a 66-92 record.
He’s toured America in his coaching, but perhaps his most well-know coaching accomplishment came with his time at Loyola Marymount University. He transformed LMU into a contender in the NCAA tournament. He led an inspired 1990 team to the Elite Eight, catching the attention of the entire college hoops world.
Westhead is no doubt accomplished, but his time at Oregon was marked by a rocky record and inconsistency.
Following Oregon’s 93-85 loss to Washington in the second round of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament, Westhead addressed the media for the final time. He reiterated that his time at Oregon was enjoyable because he is very proud of what the team has accomplished.
“’You should walk out of the room proud, not like head down and disappointed,’” Westhead said, referring to comments he made to his team after the loss. “We lost and we’re disappointed but they’re a very good group of young women. They should be proud.”
Sitting in the media room after the game, Westhead remained calm and relaxed. He’s been in this position before in his prolific coaching career. On March 4, the Oregon athletic department announced that his contract would not be renewed after it expires on March 31.
“I really haven’t thought about (the future),” Westhead said. “This is the coaching business. You practice between games, and you play to execute and win, but you don’t have many thoughts about, ‘Well, if this doesn’t happen, what am I doing next?’ I’ll get up tomorrow and worry about that. It’s been a good run here. This university is a first-class operation. We do things the right way. It’s been a nice experience…Onto another career. I would hope I find a team that wants to run.”
The team, who was saddened by the news of his departure from Eugene, clearly enjoyed his style of play and mentorship.
“To play for a coach like him, who’s coached NBA players and won championships, it’s probably the highlight of my career because he has taught me so much,” Jillian Alleyne said after the game. “He taught me ultimately to believe in myself, that I can be any kind of player I want to be. So it’s been a great honor and a great pleasure.”
Westhead’s impact on this program has been substantial. His team put up numbers this season that top national charts for offense, and he’s changed the way Oregon women’s basketball runs the game. But his departure time was undoubtedly looming after a 4-27 season last year.
His successor will have plenty of talent to continue to move the program in the right direction. Alleyne and Chrishae Rowe center the offense, while Lexi Petersen, Megan Carpenter and Katelyn Loper will all continue to improve, giving the next coach to take the reigns with plenty of offensive firepower and leadership.
The Ducks are in a perfect position to fly high next season, thanks in large part to the work that Westhead and his staff have done.
Follow Jonathan Hawthorne on Twitter @Jon_Hawthorne