After humiliating beat-downs at the hands of both the Portland Trail Blazers and Los Angeles Clippers, as well as a loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported Sunday that the Phoenix Suns had terminated head coach Earl Watson.
Phoenix coach Earl Watson has been fired, league sources tell ESPN.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) October 22, 2017
This caught the attention of Watson’s former teammate, Blazers star Damian Lillard. Via Twitter, he questioned the termination, and whether Watson was the responsible party for the Suns’ disastrous start to the season.
Should a coach be held responsible for losing by 40+ in 2/3 games? What y'all think ?— Damian Lillard (@Dame_Lillard) October 22, 2017
Watson played the 2013-14 season with Lillard in Portland, primarily in a mentor role. OregonLive’s Mike Tokito discussed Watson’s role on the team.
Watson, who turns 35 next month, joined the Blazers in July, signing a one-year contract for the veteran's minimum. Watson appeared in a career-low 24 regular season games and four in the playoffs. He made his biggest contributions away from the sight of fans, as a locker room sage and mentor who also gave his younger teammates a tough, defensive-minded veteran to scrimmage against.
"Coach (Terry) Stotts was very good at communicating before the season started and free agency what my role is going to be, which is important for me because I'm a guy who has to visualize before I accomplish anything," Watson said. "Came in, he wanted me to mentor, kind of be the leader, be that mature guy on the team, that veteran guy on the game. I tried to excel in that role and exceed all the expectation."
Watson replaced Jeff Hornacek as the Suns’ interim coach in February of 2016. His interim tag was removed at the end of the 2016-17 season. The Suns went 33-85 in his tenure.
A few hours after Watson’s termination, the Suns chose an interim replacement, again a former Blazer. But a former assistant coach this time.
Phoenix Suns associate head coach Jay Triano will take over as interim coach, league sources tell ESPN. Suns play Kings on Monday night.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) October 23, 2017
While it is not unusual to see a coach fired after a slow start, three games is an unusually short leash. It is worth noting that Watson’s firing came roughly an hour following this cryptic tweet from Suns guard Eric Bledsoe.
I Dont wanna be here— Eric Bledsoe (@EBled2) October 22, 2017
The tweet had no context, and could very well just have been of coincidental timing. However, it makes you wonder if perhaps there were problems in the Phoenix locker room, and if the firing is not just due to the team’s slow start.
Former Portland Trail Blazers assistant coach Jay Triano will take the helm as interim head coach, per Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.