Earl Watson didn’t inherit the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls.
The Suns’ interim head coach could harness the best traits of all of John Wooden, Hubie Brown and Jerry Sloan and still find it tough to help this Phoenix team to a victory. We know that.
That got us to thinking: How long has it taken each of the 17 Suns coaches in franchise history to reach their first victory?
Watson took 10 games to earn his first victory, a 111-106 win against the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday night that ended a 13-game losing skid that tied the franchise record for the longest in a single season.
Not coincidentally, the second-longest it took a new Suns coach to reach a win came the last time Phoenix lost 13 straight in a season. Danny Ainge had the next-roughest time getting his first victory in his initial days manning Phoenix’s sideline. Ainge inherited a reasonably talented team in 1996-97 but one that traded Charles Barkley. Phoenix got out to a 0-8 start before Cotton Fitzsimmons resigned, and Ainge would lose his first five games before winning the sixth and helping Phoenix finish that year 40-42 overall.
Here’s a quick look — in order from best winning percentage with Phoenix to worst — at how long each Suns head coach took to earn his first win.
Paul Westphal (1992): 1st — If you remember, he took the Suns to the NBA Finals this year.
Mike D’Antoni (2004): 4th — D’Antoni won Coach of the Year in his first season.
Cotton Fitzsimmons (1970): 1st
Cotton Fitzsimmons (1988): 3rd — The Ring of Honor member won NBA Coach of the Year in his first season of his second stint with the Suns.
Cotton Fitzsimmons (1995): 3rd
Danny Ainge (1997): 6th — The win ended a 0-13 start to the year.
Scott Skiles (2000): 1st
Terry Porter (2008): 1st
Dick Van Arsdale (1987): 3rd — He was an interim following John MacLeod.
Alvin Gentry (2008): 1st — The victory was a harbinger for Phoenix’s success returning to an up-tempo system after Terry Porter’s defense-first approach ended in the middle of his first season. The Suns won with a 140-100 rout of the Clippers.
John MacLeod (1973): 1st — MacLeod took over for former Suns owner, coach and front office executive Jerry Colangelo.
Jerry Colangelo (1970): 1st — Took over for Johnny “Red” Kerr after a 15-23 start and led the franchise to its first playoff berth.
Jeff Hornacek (2013): 1st
Frank Johnson (2002): 3rd — He took over for Scott Skiles midseason and kept the gig as the permanent head coach.
Butch Van Breda Kolff (1972): 2nd — He was fired after a 3-4 start to his first season and replaced by Jerry Colangelo.
John Wetzel (1988): 3rd
Lindsey Hunter (2013): 1st — Hunter took over for Alvin Gentry.
Johnny Kerr (1968): 3rd — He went 16-66 in 1968-69 yet retained his job for 38 games of the next season.
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