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Westhead takes over Nuggets

DENVER -- Paul Westhead will bring his uptempo style of basketball to the Denver Nuggets as head coach, General Manager Bernie Bickerstaff announced Friday.

'I'm a fast-break, full-court press kind of coach, and the people who hired me know that,' Westhead said.

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Westhead, who won 50 games and the 1980 NBA Championship after taking over the Los Angeles Lakers from injured Jack McKinney, raised the Loyola-Marymount basketball team from relative obscurity to the NCAA Tournament the last three years. Last year LMU made the final eight before losing to eventual NCAA champion Nevada-Las Vegas.

He became the ninth head coach in Denver's franchise history, dating back to 1967, and the fourth since the Nuggets joined the NBA in 1976.

'Hiring Paul Westhead is a good move for us because his style will fit the players we will put on the floor well,' Bickerstaff said. 'He is a proven winner in the college and professional ranks.'

Not all the college coaches who have made the leap to professional basketball have enjoyed equal success, but Westhead said his system is a proven winner.

'I never felt there was a great difference in coaching college and pro palyers,' Westhead said. 'I will improve many of my conditioning and practice techniques, but it's not outside the realm of possibility we would do some of the same sprints we used last year.'

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The 51-year-old Philadelphia native said last year's LMU players wore weighted wet suits while doing wind sprints in a deep-water swimming pool.

Bickerstaff said his plan for rebuilding the Nuggets would take from three to five years.

Although neither Westhead nor Bickerstaff revealed the terms of the contract, Westhead said, 'It's a contract which puts me in the thick of those years.'

Other NBA teams that have attempted a fast break, full-court defense have wilted over the grueling 82-game schedule.

Westhead, who had a 247-153 record in 14 collegiate seasons at LaSalle and Loyola-Marymount and a 140-104 record in four pro seasons with the Lakers and Chicago Bulls, said, 'A very fast pace will cause teams great difficulty, not just on offense.

'The roots of our fast break today were planted way before the NBA experience, and in the past three years I've become even a greater believer in a fast, furious defense.'

Westhead said he has not had time to consider any choices for his assistants.

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