Working It: Ep. 216
Let's bring up our gentile of the week. Paul Westphal is an NBA Hall of fame player. And the former coach of the Phoenix Suns local celebrity local hero. Come on up close. Paul do you wear the Masada hat every day or just for where a lot? I love it. It's a fantastic hat. It is I picked it up in Israel a couple years ago and I wear it on special occasions. Did you climb up by foot or did you take the trolley? No I'm the trolley. We were there it was like June. Nobody's walking up in June. So here's a question you've been a player you've been a coach you've been an NBA legend for very long time. You've had a chance to observe actively this league. I assume changing quite a bit. What do you see how how is the NBA or professional sports in general changed in your time? Well a little bit before my time a time that I can remember the Jews ruled the NBA. You know there were So True Dolph. Shays was great player. Read our back. I played for the Celtics. Red Auerbach was no longer the coach but he had built a Boston Celtics and he gave me the greatest advice I ever had. He said dress British and thinking haddish. And you're dressing yiddish tonight. I thought you were GonNa say told you to open an IRA SQUIRREL. Some money away and it was like oh no he said that and he also said rant. Don't buy kid and you just didn't want to be too comfortable going to trade you. That's right yes exactly right but no the NBA has changed. I think that that the biggest thing To guarantee contracts regardless of performance has given the players a lot of power and also the. Oh I don't know just just the. The three point shot has taken away a lot of the subtleties of the game. Now every team runs the same offense. Come down and see how many just spread out and three pointers. You can shoot. I think the game has changed a lot from those two things I really liked it better. When the teams had an individual identity and the offense has had to be a little bit more subtle and the players at least had to act like they wanted to hear what the what the what the coach said. One reason that I'm so baffled by this particular sport and also curious about it. You're sitting there as a coach. And you're looking at a roster of guys who make tremendous amounts of money and have their own increasingly independent mechanisms of communicating with the public. How do you coach guys like that? How do you assert your thoughts? You have to have players that Willingly accept that and there are a lot of them but people understand the game. It's a beautiful game when you do it together as a team and when you sacrifice for the good of the group that's the nature of basketball. That's the essence of the way basketball. Supposed to be but it isn't always that way and usually if you have a team that that will play together that is talented. You can look real smart as a coach and if you have players. That won't do that. That are on their own agenda. You could fired. Did he take you a while to sort of? Find Your your your coach philosophy or is that something that you prepare theoretically and then impose on the players. Oh I think that that For me it was. It was a constant learning experience starting when I was in elementary school and we had a coach who made us cut our fingernails before the game. And he said because you have to respect your opponent because you don't WanNA scratch and hurt them Just little things somebody that notice little things. I had a high school coach. Who was great at telling us? Don't be afraid to make a mistake You know the aggressive team is the one that wins and I was was close throughout from from junior high school on even though I didn't go to UCLA. I got to be close with coach John Wooden and studied his teachings. And and what a fantastic teacher in example he was and then being with the Celtics with red. Our Back. Who's the greatest? Nba Coach of all time and try to pick up and steal. Whatever I can for many of them and it always evolves because you can always learn something more and it was a fantastic ride just learning the principles from these great men. I was told I have to ask you why you went to USC instead of UCLA. That's at the time that it was a very controversial thing I was leading score and California history and all this stuff and I could have gone any of the colleges I want. I wanted to stay at s in California in Los Angeles and see was a football school with John McCain and all those guys and and Ucla was the basketball school. They won championships every year. And one of the big reasons I wanted to go to. Sc was to put together a team that could beat them. That would be a bigger deal than just joined the parade of championships. The challenge of beating somebody that was that great and that we respected so much that was that was a major part of it and before coach wooden died he came out and spoke to a team when I was coaching and pepperdine. He was unbelievable he when he was in his mid nineties and he came out and watch practice and people at him signing books the whole time he couldn't even watch these assigning signing something personal everybody and still watching and afterward he talked to our team and all the other teams in the school heard the coach. John Wooden was there talking and they all came to listen to him and he talked about an hour and he remembered details from fifty years ago. And it's just a brilliant mind is mine. Never left him anyway. I drove him back after this. He lived in Encino. When I drove for Malibu Encino. We had a lot of time when the car and he says Paul. I've heard your explanations and I think there's more to it how come you really didn't go to UCLA. And I won't mention the players names. Were there were a couple of players that are selfish racists. I wouldn't have got along with them and they wouldn't have got along with me and I said coach I just couldn't have seen myself being on the team with those guys and he said I can understand that but I think that in basketball I mean that was his genius he could take people from all different mentalities talk about the talking about. How if a guy is a guaranteed contract? He's liable to be more selfish coach. Wooden had a way of getting through to everybody. He has his standards and they had to live up to them but he could. He could deal with idiosyncrasies and make the whole better than the sum of the parts so brilliant I I loved getting to know him. You seem to be very principle person sort of based on these these few anecdotes. I'm curious is faith an important part of your life and does it sort of impact the decisions. You're making absolutely I think that Faith is the foundation of everything. And it's so fantastic to be speaking to a group of Jewish people Because I'm a Christian. I'm a Christian. Because of the juice you know I have a friend. Who's a Jewish man who wrote a book called Jesus was not a Christian and I. It's very true he was he was Jewish is could be and they don't make Jews like him anymore. No No. There's a song that says that you know Kinky Friedman you know him by great but absolutely and both both testaments of the Bible. There's the statement that if you seek God with all your heart you will find and What's more important than that and to me because I'm a big picture guy. What's the bigger picture than attorney and you know we're here? I think we need to be prepared. For Eternity and Christian. We raised Christian. I was raised a Christian. I was taught that the Bible is the word of God. I was taught about prophecy. I was taught about how Israel is a miracle. It cannot be there the whole world tried to snub these people out for generations and there it is because the Bible said. It's going to happen and there they are. I once wrote a piece for sports illustrated about Christianity in the NFL. And it seemed pretty clear that there's an expectation on a lot of teams that you do a lot of prayer if you add some players who just said you know what I respect all of you guys but like not my bag. I'm an atheist. Could we could just cut it out. I'll I'll shoot hoops and I'll be kind to everyone but enough with the prayer. How would you react to that? I'm actually more on that person side than than anybody else's I I don't think God counts up. You know who's he downs. Who who's his and say okay. Whoever has the the best religion? That's that's who's going to win. I don't see that the great Christian evangelist billy. Graham once said people ask me if I believe in answer prayer says of course. I've seen got answered prayer I know he answers prayer except on the golf course there. There was a chaplain who was the chaplain for both the Boston. Celtics and the Philadelphia. Seventy sixers when they were when they had Dr J. Larry Bird and all these guys and he would conduct chapels for both teams but they wouldn't meet together because they hated each other. They were rivals so he'd be one chapel do the other and people. Somebody was walking by and heard him actually praying at one at one meeting he prayed for the Celtics to win turned around and prayed for the seventy sixers to win now. That would be a miracle if that happened but I don't believe in using God for as who determines who wins and athletic contest and whatever stage anyone is in there seeking you know. I rest on the promise that God promises that. If you seek with all your heart you'll find salvation and it's not for me to judge how if anybody's really seeking you're not my job was to win basketball games. I don't believe that God intervenes. In sports sporting events either. That's why a mets fan. You know I know from watching the today and talking to people who cover it. You see this thing that players to a halftime. They wanted the bench take out their phones and they go on twitter and see what people are saying about. Is that something that makes any sense to you. Would you have handled this as a coach? If you're still doing this actively how did he respond to that? At some point you have to give up the fight. If you'RE GONNA lose the fight no matter what but you know. I think that the best thing is say when you come to the arena. Put Your phone away when the game's over if you need to get your phone out go do what you have to do. You're here you're on the clock. We're here to concentrate on on trying to win this game and do it together. So that's not always the winning argument. You know some people why not I can do this and maybe they can but I still. I hate it. I'm with you but I'm old. Do you think it's harder to be an athlete today? When there are those distractions there are people saying things on the Internet that you could access at any moment and lead sort of infiltrate your your focus. It's another obstacle to being everything you can be as as a performer. As a as an athlete you know as a teammate I think one of the best skills you can have is to be a great teammate. To certainly have to have be able to run jump and shoot the ball and see what's available but to be engaged with your team and helped bring them together If you don't WanNa play team scored go play tennis tennis. No Love Chestnuts. So it's an individual sport that's all. I'm saying absolutely absolutely JCC. And I have to ask like I've ever played basketball here. I haven't played basketball and years ever since I had my knee and hip replaced. I said that's that's time to retire when that happens. But I played basketball every day of my life for five years at Jewish community center in Phoenix..