The Oregon Ducks women’s basketball team’s lifeless 68-53 home loss against their most hated rivals, the Oregon State Beavers, has compounded the feeling of disappointment surrounding the program. At the center of it is coach Paul Westhead, and concerns about his ability to lead this team are starting to come forward. Many Ducks fans are calling for him to get fired, and it comes time to examine the Paul Westhead era in Eugene thus far.
The former NBA coach won an NBA Finals trophy once, but he also had some notable problems controlling his players. In his first stint as a coach in L.A., most of the Lakers players were against Paul Westhead and owner Jerry Buss had no trouble disposing of him. He won as a coach at Loyola and in the WNBA with the Phoenix Mercury, but he also had some poor coaching performance with others teams. He did win that Finals trophy with the Lakers, but none of it was due to his coaching. That team had Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and James Worthy, among others, leading that team.
However, this isn’t about what Paul Westhead has done in the past; it’s about what he is doing today. Despite having three of the best players in the Pac-12 conference and a solid supporting cast, the Oregon Ducks are currently 6-10 in conference play and 14-14 overall. This team was supposed to make it to the tournament with star seniors Amanda Johnson, Jasmin Holliday, and Nia Jackson. They can’t even post a winning record.
Sure A.J. was out for about a month with a fractured left thumb, but the team still couldn’t win with her back in the line-up. It is simply inexcusable to get run out of your own gym against a team whose rivalry with them has yielded the title “The Civil War”. Westhead’s dedication to this team is also suspect, because he slinks back to California in the offseason and little his heard from him. He may be a 70-year-old who needs a break and has somehow managed to stay in shape, but you would at least like to see him feign interest in this team.
The big problem with living in a state outside your school’s in the offseason is that you lose recruiting ground. Not many players like to play under Paul Westhead, and he is out of touch with the players on the team (or so it seems that way to the fans). The proof is in how he recruits, because- to this day- he has only nabbed one four-star recruit while with the Oregon Ducks; Jordan Loera last year. He has nabbed two three-star recruits in this year’s recruiting class, but that’s hardly anything to rejoice for a big school. Neither recruit is rated among the top 50 in their own positions and are rotation players at the college level. One of them has at least a shot at starting (forward Jillian Alleyne), while the other (point guard Devyn Galland) is less heralded.
Last year, Paul Westhead had his first ranked recruiting class, but a top 50 appearance hardly means much to a school like Oregon. Westhead had success in the WNBA and with one men’s college basketball program, but he is not the answer for the Oregon Ducks women’s team going forward.
One thing that captivates many is the high-flying offensive system that Paul Westhead runs and is able to score points in a hurry. However, his club’s deficiency’s on defense speak to his inability to adequately create and sustain a solid defensive scheme. He is not a motivational coach by any means, and the only value he brings to a team is his fast-paced offense. It looks good on the stat sheet, but having a big-game offense is meaningless if a team cannot simply stop the opposition from scoring more points. Looking at the Ducks record this season, it is obvious that Paul Westhead is not doing his job.
The main thing to look at when assessing the coaching situation in Eugene is the available talent. The Oregon Ducks have three talented players who are All Pac-12 type talents, and one of them- Amanda Johnson- receives national spotlight. Holliday has the numbers to back up her All-Conference candidacy, as she is among the best five forwards in the conference statistically. Ariel Thomas, Deanna Weaver, Danielle Love, Jordan Loera, and Liz Brenner make up a talented supporting cast that is deep and efficient. The majority of them are shooters who can effectively supplement a veteran big three, and this was supposed to be the year when the Ducks made it to the NCAA Tournament and furthered the program. Instead, it has been a year of disappointment and poor basketball.
In my eyes, a coach who has talent available and is unable to utilize this talent properly and finishes with a record that is at least five wins worse than it should be, must be fired. Paul Westhead has done exactly that, and his scheme just doesn’t fit. More importantly, however, it seems like the players aren’t motivated to play for him. And why should they? Westhead doesn’t seem to care about recruiting and prefers to live down south in Cali. I know everything I say is harsh, but it is difficult to ignore the magnitude of what Westhead as done- or not done- for this program. A Civil War sweep? The second loss being by 15 points at the Matt Court? Unacceptable, and Paul Westhead doesn’t deserve another year to keep this program in stagnation mode, or worse yet, moving backwards.
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Topics: Amanda Johnson, Ariel Thomas, Civil War, Danielle Love, Deanna Weaver, Devyn Galland, James Worthy, Jasmin Holliday, Jillian Alleyne, Jordan Loera, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Liz Brenner, Los Angeles Lakers, Loyola, Nia Jackson, Oregon Ducks Women's Basketball, Oregon State Beavers, Paul Westhead