Watson’s firing by Suns explained as a ‘lack of alignment organizationally’
PHOENIX – Three games. Even by NFL standards, where they play 16 games a season, that’s not a lot of time.
Yet three games, less than 4 percent of the NBA season, was all the Phoenix Suns needed to determine that Earl Watson was no longer the right person to lead the league’s second-youngest roster going forward in 2017-18.
On Sunday, the Suns fired Watson as head coach.
On Monday, general manager Ryan McDonough explained the decision.
“There was a lack of alignment organizationally from ownership, front office to coaching staff. We didn’t make the change strictly based on the past three games. It was an evaluation of a year-and-a-half period,” he said. “We had a number of meetings over the summer about some of the changes we would like to see like in terms of style of play and player development and accountability — all those things that go into winning and helping players develop and improve — and unfortunately we didn’t see those changes.”
Through three games this season, the Suns have been outscored by a combined 112 points, including suffering 42- and 48-point losses; the latter coming in the regular-season opener against Portland when the Suns set the mark for futility on an opening night in NBA history.
McDonough talked of the Suns needing a new voice and new direction.
“We realize kind of where we are as a franchise in terms of being young, being in a developmental stage but at the same time we expect to be competitive and for the guys to play hard and to be put in positions to be effective offensively and defensively, and we didn’t feel like that was getting done,” he said.
Replacing Watson is assistant Jay Triano who will serve as the interim head coach for the remainder of the season, according to McDonough.
Triano becomes the fifth different head coach since 2013 and will coach his first game Monday when the Suns host the Sacramento Kings.
“Hopefully, it’s an eye-opener for us as a team. As players it’s time for us to get it,” said guard Devin Booker, who in his third season with the Suns has now seen two in-season coaching changes. “Other people are kind of taking fault, so for us we need to look each other in the eyes and go out there and at least compete, play with passion, play with pride.”
Booker admitted to being surprised at the change, especially this early in the season, believing Watson deserved more time. And no, Booker added, Watson had not lost the locker room.
However, Watson had lost the backing of McDonough. Their relationship had reportedly become strained.
“It wasn’t great,” McDonough said. “We’re different people. I think he’s a good man. He handled us letting him go yesterday really well and I respect him for that. I think that we’re just different people with different approaches and that’s when I mentioned earlier when I talked about the lack of alignment and, I think, hence the change.”
Watson went 33-85 as head coach. He replaced Jeff Hornacek as interim coach in 2016 and had one year after this season on a three-year contract.
“It’s unfortunate,” forward Jared Dudley said. “We’ve been playing terrible since preseason, since training camp and coming into now. Anytime someone gets fired, it’s players and coaches and organization. Earl, obviously being a first-time head coach, it’s disappointing how it is.”
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