Suns Name Earl Watson Head Coach

Barry Gossage/NBAE

The Phoenix Suns have reached an agreement with interim head coach Earl Watson to retain him as the 17th head coach in franchise history.

“Earl did a very good job with our team last season after taking over as interim head coach during a challenging time for the organization,” said Suns General Manager Ryan McDonough. “Earl’s natural leadership qualities and his ability to connect with and motivate our players have stood out throughout his time here in Phoenix. We are excited to see what he can do with a healthy roster after having a full offseason to prepare.”

First named interim head coach on Feb. 1, Watson compiled a 9-24 in 33 games after taking the reins, including wins in three of the team’s final four games by averaging 115.0 points over those final four contests. The Suns ranked second in the NBA in rebounds per game after Watson took control and were one of the league’s most improved defensive teams over the season’s final month, allowing 5.1 fewer points per 100 possessions in the team’s final 16 games than in their first 66.

Watson originally joined the Suns as an assistant coach in the summer of 2015 after working the 2014-15 season as an assistant coach with the Austin Spurs of the NBA Development League. Watson became a coach following a 13-year NBA career as a point guard in which he appeared in 878 career games with Seattle/Oklahoma City, Memphis, Denver, Indiana, Utah and Portland from 2001-2014. Watson averaged 6.4 points, 4.4 assists and 1.0 steals for his career, posting highs of 10.7 points and 6.8 assists with the SuperSonics in 2007-08. At 36 years old, Watson is currently the youngest head coach in the NBA.

Throughout his NBA career, Watson played for and learned under some of the league’s most distinguished coaches, including Hubie Brown, George Karl and Jerry Sloan, in addition to signing with teams run by executives and basketball icons Jerry West and Larry Bird. One of Watson’s most formational relationships was with the legendary John Wooden, whom Watson would have inspiring conversations with from when he arrived at UCLA until Wooden’s passing in 2010.

Prior to being selected 40th overall in the 2001 NBA Draft, the Kansas City, Kan. native was a four-year starter at UCLA, helping guide the Bruins to three Sweet 16 appearances. Watson remains the prestigious program’s all-time leader in steals and minutes played.