In 1988, Haywood, with writer Scott Ostler, revealed in People magazine that he’d considered killing Lakers coach Paul Westhead, who had suspended Haywood indefinitely after Game 3 of the 1980 NBA Finals. Haywood had gotten into a shouting match with teammates Brad Holland and Jim Chones after the game. As a result of his suspension, he explained in People, “I turned all my anger toward Westhead,” who had taken over as interim coach after Jack McKinney was nearly killed in a bike accident. Haywood goes on to write: “I left the Forum and drove off in my Rolls that night thinking one thought—that Westhead must die. I drove through the streets plotting the man’s murder. In the heat of anger and the daze of coke, I phoned an old friend of mine in Detroit, a guy named Gregory, a genuine certified gangster. I said, ”C’mon out here, buddy. I got someone I want you to take care of.’ He said, ‘No problem, Wood. Love to do that for you.’ The next day Greg and his partner flew to L.A., ready to go to work. We sat down and figured it out. Westhead lived in Palos Verdes, and we got his street address. We would sabotage his car, mess with his brake lining.”
Paul Westhead Rumors
I mean, there was a thought about this. It was not a plot per se that you went and sat outside his house waiting for him to come out. They’re more like, you know, “Spike his drink” or “Spike his car” or something. We did drive down to Palos Verdes and we looked around, and when I came back I got high. My mother called and she said, “Hey boy, what the hell are you up to?” And my paranoia, as I was explaining before about the drug, is that everybody knew what I was doing, including my mother. So what was going in my mind was unholy, ungodly and not clear at all, so I knew my mother was onto it. When I got back, I did some more coke, and that’s when I hit rock bottom, when I realized what the hell I was thinking about. It wasn’t an act. I didn’t attempt to do anything. But it was an evil intent. I know my God is watching me at this time. And I really went off my rocker.
The Lakers had actually decided to fire Westhead two games earlier, sources said, before they played the Indiana Pacers on Nov. 15, 1981, but they didn’t do it right away. When the team beat both the Pacers and the Utah Jazz three nights later, things got awkward. The team’s issues hadn’t changed — Johnson was unhappy with the way he was being used in Westhead’s offense — but now after losing four of their first six games, the Lakers had rattled off four straight wins. When Johnson asked to be traded following the Jazz game, it created the perception he forced Jerry Buss’ hand when in actuality the decision to fire Westhead had been made several days earlier.