THE NBA PLAYOFFS : Ex-Laker Haywood Tells of Plan He Had to Kill Westhead
Spencer Haywood, who played for the Lakers during the 1979-80 season, says he plotted to kill then-coach Paul Westhead after Haywood was suspended from the team during the National Basketball Assn. Finals, according to a story in the upcoming issue of People magazine.
In the first-person account of his troubled season in Los Angeles, Haywood tells of his fall into crack cocaine abuse and of the subsequent deterioration of his playing skills and attitude.
After Haywood fell asleep during a team workout and caused various other disruptions, the Lakers suspended him after Game 3 of the finals, which the Lakers won in six games.
Haywood says that in his drug-addled state, he blamed his troubles on Westhead. Haywood phoned a gangster friend in Detroit, who flew to Los Angeles with another friend, and the three plotted to kill Westhead by sabotaging his car. Haywood said he eventually was dissuaded from wrongdoing by his mother.
Haywood, hero of the 1968 Olympic basketball team and pro basketball’s first hardship case, has been recovering from his cocaine addiction since 1984. He is in business in Detroit, where he heads his own real estate company, and is founder of the Spencer Haywood Foundation, which sponsors basketball and educational summer camps for inner-city youth.
Westhead, who coaches the Loyola Marymount basketball team, when informed of Haywood’s story, said: “At the time, I did what I felt I had to do (suspend Haywood) to save the team. And I would do it again.
“I had no idea how deep the problem was, nor did any of us, I think. I’ll say this, though. When I got back in the league (coaching the Chicago Bulls, after being fired by the Lakers), and we played the Bullets (Haywood’s last NBA team), he ran over, grabbed my hand, went out of his way to welcome me back to the league. I’ve always had a good feeling about ‘Woody, that he was a good guy.”