Following the news that Jeff Hornacek was fired as the head coach of the Phoenix Suns late Sunday night, the Suns have named assistant coach and former Trail Blazer Earl Watson their interim head coach. The news was first confirmed by Yahoo! Sports' Marc J. Spears:
Suns have promoted assistant coach Earl Watson to interim head coach, a source told Yahoo Sports— Marc J. Spears (@SpearsNBAYahoo) February 1, 2016
Originally hired as a player development coach, Watson joined the bench when assistants Mike Longabardi and Jerry Sichting were fired in December. He now takes the new role after being an assistant coach for only 17 games.
A second-round pick from UCLA, Watson spent 13 seasons in the NBA before retiring after the 2013-2014 season. His last was spent with the Blazers where he filled the role of veteran mentor at the point for the likes of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. In 24 games played, he averaged 0.5 points and 1.2 assists per game.
For Watson, the rise from player to head coach is not so surprising. In an interview with Priority Sports in March, 2015, Watson discussed how he was able to build his own pyramid of success with the help of legendary coach John Wooden during his four years at UCLA.
Almost every Sunday, the 18- year-old from Kansas City Would show up at the 77-year-old retired coach’s condo in Encino,CA. They sometimes talked about basketball, but the conversations would usually veer toward loyalty, friendships or relationships.
"I knew then that I wanted to be one of the best coaches ever," said Watson, ‘that’s my dream and my goal."
Assistant coaches Cory Gaines and Nate Bjorkgren were also considered for the opening. Watson will make his head coaching debut on Tuesday night, as the Suns host the scorching hot Toronto Raptors.
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