Jerry Tarkanian has dibs on “The Shark” (and all your linens), but he hasn’t really used the nickname in nearly a decade. Therefore, we propose Paul Westhead take up the moniker as he also takes up the reins as head coach of the Oregon Ducks’ women’s basketball program. Westhead has two options: run or die. At age 70, he’s still running.
Westhead has been floundering since being released as part of P.J. Carlesimo’s Oklahoma City Thunder staff earlier this season. The Thunder’s current running style has been one of the criminally underrated joys of the season, even if the results haven’t shown up in the win column.
This will make the tenth stop at the pro and college level for Westhead, including collecting rings with the Los Angeles Lakers and the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury. This will be his first iteration as a women’s college basketball coach. However, exhaustion knows no age or gender, as his first missive to his charges states:
I can only say to you that I feel confident that I will be able to have our players very competitive and I will tell them this: I want our team next season, home and away, to show up in an arena and look at the opponents and say, ‘I don’t know if we’re going to win or lose tonight, but I’ll tell you one thing, you are going to be very tired at the end of the game. We’re going to wear you out.’
On first blush, it doesn’t show much confidence in the 9-21 team left to Westhead by former coach Bev Smith, but there’s little doubt that Westhead believes everyone can succeed if they run hard enough against the Pac-10 current. Run or die.
A bitter coda: It was nice of Mike Bellotti to let the lame duck AD Pat Kilkenny make one more call before taking over, but let there be no question about who’s calling the shots here: the man that didn’t want to see any losers playing in the stadium he effectively built to name after his dead son.
Paul may be the new Shark in our estimation, but Phil Knight’s the only predator that matters in Oregon.