It's a bit different from last year's coaching tandem. When Jason Kidd was hired, he wanted Lawrence Frank as his lead assistant, his mentor. Frank was high profile, Kidd was high maintenance and we all know how that ended.
When Paul Westphal was announced as Lionel Hollins' lead assistant coach on July 30, there was very little fan fare. Despite this, the move was a significant one. It marked the professional reunion of Westphal and ... in reversed roles. Not a player hiring his former head coach as an assistant like last year but a former assistant hiring his former boss.
Westphal and Hollins worked together with the Phoenix Suns from 1992 to 1996. Westphal served as the head coach then with Hollins his assistant. The duo coached the Charles Barkey-led Suns to the NBA Finals in 1993, ultimately losing to Michael Jordan's Bulls.
After nearly two decades apart, Hollins is once again eager to share the hardwood with Westphal. The two run the practices from center court, the four-time NBA head coach now the quiet one, very much out of the spotlight, unlike his predecessor.
"Coach Westphal is a great coach, a great guy," Hollins told reporters at Media Day. "He's already helping individual players."
Westphal has an impressive resume. He was hired by the Suns in 1992 after retiring from the team eight years earlier. While in Phoenix, Westphal compiled a record of 191-88, averaging 59 wins in his first three seasons before being fired shortly after the start of 1995-96 season .
Westphal also had stints with the Seattle Supersonics from 1998 to 2001, coaching Gary Payton and Vin Baker to one playoff run, and the rebuilding Sacramento Kings from 2009 to 2012. Over his coaching career, Westphal compiled a more than respectable record of 318-279. But his departures were not without controversy. He was dumped in Seattle after a slow start and arguments with Payton and Baker, and in Sacramento, the Maloofs canned him after he and DeMarcus Cousins battled.
Before he went to the bench, Westphal had an impressive playing career. Playing both point and shooting guard over a 12-year span, Westphal was a five-time All-Star and three-time first team All-NBA, playing primarily with the Suns and Celtics. He won an NBA championship in 1974 while playing with John Havlicek's Celtics and went to the Finals again in 1976, as a Sun, this time losing to Boston.
During his All-Star run, from 1977 through 1981, Westphal averaged 22.4 points and more than five assists per game. He's also one of the highest scorers ever in the All-Star Game, averaging nearly 20 points per game in those five games.
Bottom line, Westphal has a winning pedigree and a long relationship with Hollins. At the very least, Westphal isn't likely to be the next Lawrence Frank.