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Just The Sports: No Wonder The Phoenix Mercury Suck

Just The Sports

Sunday, July 02, 2006

No Wonder The Phoenix Mercury Suck

When I wrote about the Phoenix Mercury being the most exciting team to watch in the WNBA, largely because they score a lot of points per 100 possessions and give up even more points per 100 possessions. What I did not know about the time because I had not bothered to look it up was who the head coach was. Now that is has come to my attention that the Mercury are guided by Paul Westhead, it all makes sense.

Westhead, during his coaching tenures, is most famous for having his teams play at a frenetic pace and scoring a lot of points, seemingly because Westhead simply likes seeing a lot of points on the scoreboard whether it be from his team or the opponent. He did so as the coach for Loyola Marymount where they racked up gaudy offensive totals from a purely points per game standpoint.

When he made the move to the NBA from Loyola Marymount, he brought along his offensively philosophy and his lack of defensively philosophy. Westhead's 1991 Denver Nuggets team played at the fastest pace of any NBA team since 1974 with 114.0 possessions a game. Still, they were below the league average in offensive efficiency and above the league average in defensive efficiency, two places you do not want to see a team if you are a coach or a GM or an owner. In fact, the 1991 Nuggets team is the seventh worst historical defense since 1974.

Now his flawed coaching methods have led the Phoenix Mercury to a below-.500 record. As of last Tuesday, they averaged the most points per game in the NBA, both for scoring and allowing. However, they rank "only" third in offensive efficiency (they are last in the league in defensive efficiency). Even at the age of 67, Westhead does not seem to see the correlation between giving up a lot of points and not winning. For those counting at home, it is an indirect correlation.

But hey, it's still fun to watch.


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