Earl Watson joined the Suns’ coaching staff last summer expected to lead the development of point guards Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight.
More immediately, the former point guard’s role became about recruiting.
As has been well-chronicled by now, Watson’s relationship with free agent LaMarcus Aldridge played a huge part in Phoenix pushing itself into the forefront of the chase for the forward’s services.
Aldridge would eventually choose to sign with the San Antonio Spurs, but not until Thursday, when Watson joined Burns and Gambo in the Arizona Sports 98.7 FM studio, did we realize how much the newly-minted Suns head coach was prepared to help in recruiting the free agent from Portland.
That’s because Watson, while coaching with the Spurs’ D-League team in Austin before joining Phoenix, had already done his homework in preparation to recruit the top free agent of 2015.
“I was in an opportunity with San Antonio, I was in the D-League but also did a lot of NBA work for San Antonio,” Watson explained. “I don’t think San Antonio seen this coming. They allowed me to help create the pitch for LaMarcus. So if I helped create the pitch, and I think I had a lot to do with it — Pop is Pop and his staff is amazing — then when I left the pitch comes with me, too. I put the work in.
“We came out of nowhere for LaMarcus,” Watson added. “We almost had him.”
Watson also had a hand in landing free agent center Tyson Chandler, and he knew that would give Phoenix a solid leg-up on the competition for Aldridge’s services.
As detailed by Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski, Chandler’s presence when the Suns met Aldridge make a significant impact on Aldridge listening.
“I picked up Tyson from middle-school when I was at UCLA,” Watson said of Chandler, who went to high school in Compton, Calif. “I used to pick him up, Baron (Davis) and I would pick him up, take him to eat, take him to his game. I had a creative input on Tyson.”
Watson said he’s been learning about recruiting since former UCLA coaches Jim Harrick and Steve Lavin got him to commit to the Bruins to join Davis, the top point guard in their class.
That carried through Watson’s career as he played under Jerry West’s front office in Memphis and, most recently, in his first coaching job with the Spurs.
There’s a good bet he’ll continue helping the Suns in that regard as they head into free agency this summer.
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