The way in which the Phoenix Suns went about hiring Earl Watson had been questioned by some on Tuesday.
When listening to Suns general manager Ryan McDonough, however, it’s clear as to why the decision was so decisive.
“Throughout the last month or so of the season, we had a number of players come to us unsolicited and say ‘hey look, this is the guy that should be our head coach. We believe in him, we feel like he believes in us. We sense some of the changes around here in terms of the culture and the mood,'” McDonough said on Burns & Gambo on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.
“More than anything, I think we saw Earl grow as a coach over a two and a half month period,” McDonough said.
The Suns general manager — entering his fourth offseason with Phoenix — cited the March 14 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves as a game when the Suns saw Watson shine as a coach in the way he created plays.
It’s been only a week since the Suns’ season ended, but McDonough made it clear that the Suns have been completing a process since they fired Jeff Hornacek on Feb. 1.
“We’ve been doing our homework and our due diligence for two and a half months now,” McDonough said.
“We considered everybody from former NBA head coaches to current college coaches to up and coming assistant coaches in the NBA.”
With that evaluation came comparing Watson to those candidates, and McDonough spoke highly of how Watson performed when that was done.
“Earl continued to stand out, if not emerge from the pack as we were going through that process,” McDonough said.
Despite the 9-24 record the Suns had under Watson, there’s no doubt about the positive energy he brought to the Suns’ organization and locker room.
“We think he did a really good job in terms of starting to establish and create a culture of sacrifice, of hard work, being competitive and frankly, he commanded the respect of the team and the locker room,” McDnoough said.
McDonough went on to note a surprising tidbit about their search.
“Let me make this clear, there were no budgetary restrictions on what we could spend for a head coach.”