Watson: Changes in NBA, desire to coach
TUALATIN, Ore. – Earl Watson of the Portland Trail Blazers has a strong desire to become the next head coach of the Utah Jazz and would relish the opportunity to interview for the position, league sources associated with the guard informed CSNNW.com.
Watson, 34, played three seasons as a member of the Jazz and immediately became an organization and fan favorite. He is viewed by numerous NBA executives as one of the few current players capable of making a smooth transition into the NBA coaching profession shortly following retirement.
The soon-to-be coach admitted during Friday’s exit interviews that the Utah job attracts him, and he already has the endorsement of Utah’s electric wing stud.
“I’m definitely pulling for Earl to get the job,” Jazz forward Gordon Hayward told CSNNW.com via phone Friday morning. “He’s a great guy and has a great basketball mind. If he did become our coach and I got to play under him, it would be great because I know how hard he’ll work and prepare us. He’s a true professional and I think no matter where he ends up, he’ll be a great head coach in the NBA.”
The veteran backup point guard hasn’t closed the door completely on playing a 14th year, another source cautions, but adds Watson will not pass up an offer from the Jazz.
The 13-year NBA veteran has closely studied the nuances and coaching philosophies of monumental coaching figures throughout his illustrious playing career that includes the late great UCLA coach John Wooden, former ULCA coach and current St. Johns coach Steve Lavin, and Hall of Famer Hubie Brown.
If given the opportunity to interview for the position, a source says Watson would enlighten Jazz management on a blueprint to assemble a veteran coaching staff around him to help him through the initial rigors of having never coached in the league. And he has a key assistant prospect.
Watson told CSNNW.com earlier this year that if he were to obtain a head coaching job in the NBA next season, he would reach out to Coach Hubie Brown to gauge his interest in exiting his ESPN color commentating gig to become his lead assistant. It would be similar to what Jason Kidd did by bringing on Lawrence Frank.
Brown, who loves Watson as if he were his own son, said if things materialized in that fashion, he would have to entertain Watson’s proposal, but said it would have to include little, to no traveling due to him getting up there in years.
“I’m 80 years old and I’ll be 81 in September, but I wouldn’t mind doing the practices at home,” Brown told CSNNW.com. “You never know what could happen. He is a top professional. He has a high IQ, very coachable and very bright. He doesn’t miss a thing. He’s very inquisitive. He sees things, but picks his spots. I always say that he was one of the toughest kids to ever play for me. He’ll make an excellent NBA head coach.”
Brown went on to make public that Watson has already turned down one coaching opportunity.
“If he did not sign with Portland for this season, he would have signed at St. Johns University and would have been an assistant coach with Lavin this year,” Brown revealed to CSNNW.com. “So other people have seen the potential in him to be a coach.”
Watson has been fortunate to have been coached and mentored by a plethora of outstanding, accomplished individuals such as Terry Stotts, Dwane Casey, Nate McMillan, Jerry West, Mike Fratello, George Karl, John Welch, Doug Moe, Bob Hill, P.J. Carlesimo, Ron Adams, Larry Bird, Dick Harter, Frank Vogel, Kevin O’Conner, Jerry Sloan, Phil Johnson and Jeff Hornacek.
In his lone season with Portland, he served as a player-coach, of sorts. He routinely relieved tension in the locker room when young players got frustrated about playing time. Will Barton and Thomas Robinson can attest to that. His leadership skills are undeniable. He’s a student of the game.
Utah is said to have approximately 20 coaching candidates to sort through. Hayward believes they should make it 21.
“I think he deserves a shot,” Hayward said. “Like I said, I think he will make an excellent coach.”