Westhead leaves WNBA champs Mercury to take assistant job with Sonics

Updated: September 27, 2007, 8:49 PM ET
Associated Press

SEATTLE -- Paul Westhead is leaving the WNBA champion Phoenix Mercury to return to the NBA, accepting an assistant coach job with the Seattle SuperSonics on Thursday.

Westhead's move to join the staff of friend P.J. Carlesimo was not unexpected after the Mercury won their first title two weeks ago.

Paul Westhead
AP Photo/Gary MalerbaFormer Phoenix Mercury coach Paul Westhead, center, helps lift the WNBA championship trophy earlier this month in Auburn Hills, Mich.
The WNBA crown was the second title for the 68-year-old Westhead, who also won the NBA championship in 1980 as a rookie coach with the Los Angeles Lakers. He is the only coach to win titles in both leagues.

"P.J. and I have worked together and known each other for many years, and I'm thankful for the opportunity," Westhead said.

He also was a head coach in Chicago and Denver, sandwiched around a five-year run at Loyola Marymount, where Westhead took the Lions to three straight NCAA berths, including a memorable run to the Elite Eight in 1990 after the death of star forward Hank Gathers. He also had college stops at George Mason and LaSalle.

Westhead was an assistant for Carlesimo from 1997-99, Carlesimo's last NBA head coaching stop.

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"We are extremely fortunate to have Paul Westhead join our coaching staff," Carlesimo said in a statement. "He will be a great resource to our talented players, and also to his fellow coaches."

Westhead joins Ralph Lewis, Scott Brooks and Mark Bryant on Carlesimo's staff.

Mercury general manager Ann Meyers Drysdale released a statement praising Westhead's work.

"We are unendingly grateful for the commitment and leadership Paul provided from the day he joined the Mercury organization and the role he played in bringing our franchise and city their first professional basketball championship," she said. "We wish him the best in his new venture."

She said the search for a new coach would begin immediately.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press