Warriors coach Steve Kerr played for longtime NBA coach Paul Westphal during his rookie season in the NBA, and reflected on the life of the Naismith Hall of Fame inductee following the announcement of his passing on Saturday at the age of 70.
"We played 3-on-3, 4-on-4 every day after practice, he was still young enough where he was still playing, he was a really important figure in my early career," Kerr told reporters after Warriors practice. "Giving me confidence and helping me figure out the league and how I could make an impact."
Kerr first got to know of Westphal as a young man growing up in Southern California, where the legendary basketball figure became a household name as a player.
"He's one of the great high school players in the area, so a legendary player who I heard about while I was growing up and then went on to USC and had an incredible NBA career," Kerr continued. "For me growing up in Los Angeles, he was one of the guys who came out of that city who inspired me.
"I think some of my earliest memories as a basketball fan were those USC-UCLA battles, I was about five, six years old or something, but Paul was a tremendous coach, tremendous player and just a really kind, decent man, and I speak for the whole organization when I send condolences to the Westphal family, and yeah this is a very, very sad day."
Westphal won an NBA championship with the Boston Celtics as a player in 1974, and was a five-time All-Star over his 13 seasons in the NBA.
Kerr began his NBA career with the Phoenix Suns in 1988-89, where Westphal was an assistant at the time. Westphal later took over as the head coach of the Suns in 1992-93, and set a record for wins by a first-year head coach that stood for over two decades.
Westphal's 62 wins with Phoenix that season was the NBA record until Kerr won 67 games in his first season as head coach of the Warriors in 2014-15.
The basketball world truly lost an all-time great on Saturday.