ESPN’s Jay Williams: I see Earl Watson replacing Steve Alford at UCLA

Mar 20, 2017, 9:35 AM | Updated: 11:57 am
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A little less than one year ago, while he was still the interim head coach of the Phoenix Suns, Earl Watson said there was only one college program he would be willing to coach.

“I can’t go to another living room and lie; I can’t go recruit a kid and say, ‘This is the best school for you,'” he told Doug and Wolf on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM back on April 12, 2016. “I would be lying because of a paycheck.”

“So there’s only school I would coach, and we all know what school that is.”

Spoiler alert: He was talking about UCLA.

Watson, who is in the final stretch of his first full season as the Suns’ head coach, attended UCLA from 1997 to 2001. Having left the school having started the most consecutive games in the history of the program, he has never been bashful about his affinity for the school.

But of course, Watson currently has a job — coaching the Suns — and as of now, UCLA still has a coach in Steve Alford.

While there is no indication the former could change, chatter has emerged that the latter might.

An Indiana alum, Alford was linked to that school’s vacancy pretty much from the moment Tom Crean was fired. The current UCLA coach, whose team advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament on Sunday, has essentially refused to comment on the rumors, which has led to some speculation that he is indeed interested in the job.

And if Alford leaves Westwood? The UCLA job is among the best in college basketball, with a rich tradition of success and a return to prominence over the last few years.

“I see Steve Alford going to Indiana, and then I see Mr. Earl Watson, the head coach of the Phoenix Suns, coming back home to UCLA,” ESPN NCAA hoops analyst Jay Williams told Mike and Mike on ESPN Radio Monday morning.

In terms of legitimate rumors with the idea that if you see smoke, there is probably some fire, this one is barely even a spark.

Watson would appear to be a good fit for his alma mater in some ways, given his love for the school and credibility as someone who had a 14-year NBA career. His motivational and nurturing style would also seem to play well at the collegiate level.

However, Watson, who guided the Suns to a 9-24 record as the interim boss in 2015-16 and has the team at 22-48 this season, is working under a three-year contract signed last summer and though the Suns have not won much, there has been little-to-no indication the franchise would be looking to make a change.

That’s not to say something could not happen, of course. Just, as of now it seems to be pure speculation, at best.

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ESPN’s Jay Williams: I see Earl Watson replacing Steve Alford at UCLA