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Phoenix Suns remove interim tag, tab Earl Watson to be next head coach

Phoenix Suns head coach Earl Watson calls out from the bench in the second half of an NBA basketball game against the New Orleans Pelicans in New Orleans, Saturday, April 9, 2016. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

The Phoenix Suns’ search for a new head coach has led them to the man who held the position for the last few months: Earl Watson.

Watson signed a three-year deal with the team.

Watson took over as the interim head coach on Feb. 1 after the team relieved Jeff Hornacek of his duties. The Suns went 9-24 under his stewardship — a stretch that included an 0-9 start under Watson  — but finished the season winning three of their final four games.

The 36-year-old joined the Suns prior to this past season as a developmental coach before moving into an assistant coach role and then, ultimately, the head coach’s seat. He earned praise from the players as well as general manager Ryan McDonough, who last week said Watson had helped his candidacy by leading an injury-ravaged roster through the final couple months of the season.

“Obviously our record’s not great, but he’s been dealt a very difficult hand,” McDonough said. “I think his first major challenge was the Markieff Morris situation and I thought he handled that tremendously well and helped us get a pick that as of today, I think, will be about 12th or 13th in the lottery. That’s huge for us, huge for the organization.

“So yeah, he’s done well and I think that certainly helped his candidacy. The fact that yes, he doesn’t have a lot of experience, but we have seen some good things over the past two and a half months.”

No other candidates are known to have spoken to the Suns about the job.

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