PHOENIX SUNS

Amid UCLA whispers, McDonough expects Watson to remain with Suns ‘for a long time’

Mar 22, 2017, 6:29 PM | Updated: Mar 23, 2017, 11:37 am
Interim coach Earl Watson speaksto the media as GM Ryan McDonough looks on. (Photo by Kevin Zimmerm...
Interim coach Earl Watson speaksto the media as GM Ryan McDonough looks on. (Photo by Kevin Zimmerman/Arizona Sports)
(Photo by Kevin Zimmerman/Arizona Sports)
LISTEN: Ryan McDonough, Suns' General Manager

Because it’s an easy connection to make, former UCLA point guard and current Suns coach Earl Watson’s name has been thrown about when it comes to the still-filled Bruins head coaching job.

But if UCLA’s Steve Alford leaves — his alma mater Indiana has a vacancy fueling these whispers — then Watson could have a shot at landing a job with the Bruins. The Phoenix head coach doesn’t play the what-if game, he said on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM this week.

His current employer, however, might want to look a few steps ahead.

Suns general manager Ryan McDonough joined Arizona Sports 98.7 FM’s Burns and Gambo show Wednesday and, if anything, gave his head coach a sense that he has job security in Phoenix.

“It really hasn’t come up yet, it hasn’t come across our radar,” McDonough said of the UCLA rumors. “Obviously, I know what’s out there. Look, we love Coach Watson and the job he’s done with our young group, he’s really connected with our young players, they play hard every night. He and his staff were here pretty much all summer working with our players, building relationships with them, developing them.

“I think as we’re talking about some of our young guys and their improvement, that shows through on the court, individually if not in terms of wins and losses,” the general manager added. “We fully expect him to be the coach here for a long time. That would be our preference, that would be my preference.”

EARLY OFFSEASON

When the Suns shut down Eric Bledsoe on March 15 before a game against the Kings, they’d not yet called an end to Brandon Knight’s season.

But Knight, having not played in the 10 games prior, had already begun taking on a more “aggressive offseason workout” plan, McDonough said.

That’s why, when Phoenix asked Knight to back up Tyler Ulis against the Kings, he was listed out with a minor back injury.

“My opinion is if he tells me his back is injured then I take his word for it and I believe him,” McDonough said a week later. “When talking to Brandon more about it — I saw what was out there — he said his back had been bothering him, he ramped up his offseason workouts to the point where he thought he was not going to play for the rest of this year, so he moved into more of an aggressive offseason workout mode with the individual workouts and the lifts.

“He said his back was sore but I guess he didn’t bring it to our trainers’ attention maybe as much as he should have because he was under the impression that after not playing 10 games or so that he was not going to play,” McDonough added. “I think that whole thing got blown a little bit out of proportion. I feel badly for Brandon. I feel in some ways he’s a target of this stuff.”

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Amid UCLA whispers, McDonough expects Watson to remain with Suns ‘for a long time’