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Phoenix Suns head coach Earl Watson is a stabilizing force during times of change

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Earl Waston is resolute

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The Phoenix Suns and the Utah Jazz share more than just a time zone and a hatred for the Los Angeles Lakers and Chicago Bulls. They in fact have very related bloodlines with many players playing or coaching either franchise, or doing both. There's forward Tyrone Corbin, who used to start for both teams as a player, and was an assistant and head coach for Utah. Not to be outdone, there is guard Jeff Hornacek, who also used to start for both teams as a player, was an assistant with the Jazz, and became the head coach of the Suns. Today the Utah Jazz will play a Phoenix Suns team that is coached by Earl Watson. Watson didn't play for Phoenix as a player, and he wasn't a starter. And sadly, he wasn't parts of any John Stockton / Karl Malone teams that made noise in the NBA Playoffs. But Watson did play in 178 regular season games for the Jazz, and logged almost 3,500 total minutes over three seasons with the team.

In his tenure with the Jazz, Watson brought stability to the bench. He was already 30 and a veteran of many NBA wars over the nine previous years of his career.

How long has Earl been playing? Here he is blocking Shawn Bradley as a member of the Grizzlies

He also brought a defensive intensity and while he did not get to back him up for very long, he was probably the best back-up a young Deron Williams ever had. But more than those two things, he brought in a sense of toughness that the team needed during a difficult transition phase. His first year with the Jazz was the same year that:

  • a) Jerry Sloan resigned and retired along with Phil Johnson, giving the reigns over to Tyrone Corbin;
  • b) that the team traded All-NBA and Olympian Williams for Devin Harris, a rookie Derrick Favors, and two future picks (Enes Kanter and Gorgui Dieng);
  • and c) the team went from being a fixture in the NBA Playoffs to being a lottery team -- all in the span of a few weeks.

Earl Watson effectively became the 'den mother' to this young group that included not just rookies like Gordon Hayward, Favors, and the next season Enes Kanter and Alec Burks -- but also a rookie head coach in Corbin. He knew that this team needed one thing the most, leadership. And he oozed it when he was on the floor.

He taught his pups early and often not to be intimidated in games, even against MVP players like Dirk Nowitzki, and helped instill in them a killer instinct. (Some players learned better than others.)

Watson is a seasoned mentor. He did it over his last few seasons in the NBA, but after the NBA he put in a lot of time, effort (and money) into his school and his teams back in Missouri. (Part of his Watson / Burks connection.) Jeff Hornacek was well aware of that, which is why he added Earl to his coaching staff as soon as he could. Watson remains one of the only coaches NOT to get fired in Phoenix this year. That is telling.

As a coach in Phoenix he is thrown directly into the fire in another transition period: another coaching change, another big player mid-season trade, and another shift in franchise direction. He's been here before, even if here is now a few hours south on the US-89. I wish him all the best, he's one of the actually legit human beings in the NBA. He was one of the reasons to cheer during the bad days. And he will give Suns fans a reason to cheer if he's allowed to build something in that desert.