Coach Paul Westphal reacts to his candidacy for the 2012 Hall of Fame Class and shares a special tribute he pays to a coaching predecessor. Plus, two former Kings players also nominated!
What was your initial reaction to hearing you are among the candidates for the 2012 Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame Class?
“I was extremely flattered.”
What does it mean to you to be a Hall of Fame nominee?
“It’s a great honor. As a player, there were never any decisions I made with my eye toward it. I just enjoyed playing the game. At the same time, I have such great respect for the people who are in the Hall of Fame and for the game of basketball, all I can think is it was an unexpected honor.”
Though it was unexpected, was there ever a point in your career, or post-career, you thought you might be a part of the Hall of Fame conversation?
“I know there are certain achievements I had that would put me in the conversation. But, again, it was nothing I ever felt somebody could lobby for or talk (his) way into, so I just went along with my life.”
How would you describe the honor to be considered among the game’s all-time greats?
“I really don’t know how to put it into words. It’s a great honor to be talked about in the category of the players who are in the Hall of Fame.”
Who would credit as someone who helped push you to be the player you became?
“It’s hard to single out people because there have been so many. Every place I’ve been along the way, there have been teammates, coaches and family members – it would have been impossible to take the next steps without so many of them. Outside of my late father, who really provided an environment that made basketball so fun, it really wouldn’t be fair to single out too many other names.”
What does it mean to you to be nominated with former teammate Paul Silas and head coach Cotton Fitzsimmons?
“I certainly have a history with both Cotton and Paul that runs very deep. I was a rookie with the Boston Celtics when Paul arrived there at the same time. He had been in the League quite a while and we spent three years there together. Then, he was also my assistant in Phoenix when I coached. So our paths have crossed and we’ve been close, off and on, most of our careers in one way or another. I’ve always had the greatest deal of respect for Paul, his professionalism and everything he brings to any situation he’s in. He’s a legitimate nominee in every way.
“Cotton was someone I was extremely close to during the seven-and-a-half years I coached in Phoenix, along with before and afterward. He has had a phenomenal impact on my life, my career and that of so many people. He’s somebody who should never be forgotten. He really loved the game, loved to compete and was great at it.”
What does it mean to now be in a position to help influence the possible Hall of Fame careers of other players?
“Cotton is certainly someone I think of a lot and try and take as much as I could in how positive he was in his approach and his enthusiasm for every day of existence – in this life and in the NBA. I hope to be able to bring that to whatever situation I’m in. Whenever I think of Cotton, it’s a little bit easier to do that. Even though there are some down times, his positive attitude can be infectious and get you out of those down times quicker. As I mentioned, we were really close for a long time, and after he passed away, his wife gave me one of his ties. I still wear it the first home game every year to honor Cotton because he meant a lot to me.”
How would you describe your respect for the game and those who have come before you in the NBA?
“The respect for the people who have come before is something that is the most important and most enjoyable things about continuing in the game. You hope that kind of thing can be passed along, because when all of the hoopla surrounding the game goes away, what you have left is, really, the substance of the daily battle you share with these people.”
For a complete list of those nominated for the 2012 Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame Class, including former Kings players Vlade Divac and Mitch Richmond, Click Here.