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Earl Watson becomes next head coach in long history of mid-season hires by Suns

Long time friend and former NBA head coach Mike D'Antoni and New Orleans Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry joke around after NBA training camp practice in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2015. (AP Photo/Chris Tilley)

Earl Watson isn’t the first mid-season head coaching hire by the Phoenix Suns and he probably won’t be the last.

Watson becomes the 10th mid-season head-coaching hire in franchise history. Some have been success stories — like Mike D’Antoni and Alvin Gentry — while Watson will want to avoid the fate of others who failed to last another season, like Lindsey Hunter.

Working against Watson is the fact that he is inheriting the worst winning percentage of the 10 men who took over during the season since Danny Ainge, who replaced Cotton Fitzsimmons, who resigned after the Suns started 0-8 in 1996.

The 14-35 record for the 2015-16 season puts Watson in a similar situation to Hunter, who took over for Gentry in 2013 when the Suns were floundering at 13-28. The team fared no better under his stewardship, though, going 12-29 under Hunter to finish out the season.

That said, there is precedent for the Suns giving the full-time job to a coach who was hired during the season. Two of the last three mid-season replacements — Gentry, who replaced Terry Porter in 2009, and D’Antoni, who replaced Frank Johnson in 2004, have been brought back to coach the next season, with Hunter being the only exception.

Watson becomes the 17th head coach in Phoenix history, and he joins a group of coaches that at least lately features people who took over during a season.

Over the last 20 years or so, only Hornacek (2013), Porter (2008) and Paul Westphal (1992) were tabbed as the head coach during the offseason, with Westphal being elevated from assistant coach to the lead job.


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