Earl Watson was a talented Bruin basketball player. Unfortunately, he had the bad timing of playing for UCLA when Steve Lavin was UCLA’s head coach. But, that said, I don’t hold that against him. I respect his contributions to the UCLA basketball program as a player.
Earlier tonight, ESPN’s Jordan Schulz sent out the following tweet:
Source: Former #UCLA star, 13-year NBA PG and NBA head coach Earl Watson interviewed for the Bruins’ HC position with the UCLA brass. Watson would bring w/him Larry Brown as a top assistant. Watson helped create Earl Watson Elite, which is now West Coast Elite. @WCEBball @UCLAMBB— Jordan Schultz (@Schultz_Report) March 31, 2019
Now, if this is true, it’s incredibly disappointing news to hear regarding the search for a new basketball head coach.
To put it simply, Earl Watson has done ABSOLUTELY NOTHING as a head coach to merit being interviewed for the UCLA head coaching gig. Period. End of story.
You want more? Sure.
Watson’s record as a head coach is 33 wins and 85 losses over parts of three NBA seasons. That’s a total of 118 games as a head coach. He coached 33 games in 2015-16 after taking over for Jeff Hornacek. He coached a full 82-game season in 2016-17. Then, he lasted all of three games in 2017-18.
That isn’t even a full season and a half of NBA head coaching experience. Talk about paper thin.
That is the extent of Earl Watson’s head coaching career. That’s a .280 winning percentage as a head coach. That kind of winning percentage makes Steve Alford look like John Wooden.
So, his professional coaching experience is dreadful. What about his college coaching experience?
The guy has none. Nada. Zip. Zilch.
Here, we have a guy with a .280 winning percentage in less than 11⁄2 years of head coaching experience at the college and pro level, yet, somehow, he has earned an interview for the most prestigious coaching job in college basketball? Gimme a freakin’ break!
If he were this great, amazing coach, why didn’t UCLA hire him for Steve Alford’s staff instead of Murry Bartow when David Grace was fired from the program?
He hasn’t coached a game at the college or pro level as a head coach or as an assistant since he was fired from the Phoenix Suns three games into the 2017-18 season.
And, somehow, he merits being interviewed when UCLA’s head coaching job opens up after six mostly terrible seasons under Steve Alford and Murry Bartow?
Let’s check one more thing before putting this discussion to rest for good.
What kind of experience did Watson have BEFORE he became a head coach? Did he pay his dues as an assistant for years like so many others have?
Nope. Can’t say that either.
Watson went straight from playing in the NBA to serving as an assistant coach for the Austin Spurs of what is now called NBA G-League. He spent a year there before being hired as an assistant with Phoenix. He has less than a full season as an assistant at the NBA level before being named as the interim head coach of the Suns on February 1, 2016.
What exactly has Watson been doing since he was fired by Phoenix besides hanging around Westwood waiting for Dan Guerrero to finally fire Alford?
If Earl Watson wants to coach college basketball, he needs to go to some mid-major school and prove that he can actually be a successful coach because, right now, there is nothing on his resume that says that he can be.
Once he’s proven he can be a successful head coach at a mid-major, then, perhaps, he will merit an interview the next time UCLA’s head coaching gig opens.
But, simply being given an interview he doesn’t deserve because he played in Westwood is the same typical cronyism that has plagued the UCLA basketball program since John Wooden retired, no matter how much Steve Alford thinks UCLA hasn’t hired former players before.
Sure, the most recent example of this type of decision-making came in the football program when Karl Dorrell was hired with no head coaching experience on his resume. UCLA shouldn’t even be giving the perception that Watson deserved an interview.
UCLA needs to patiently wait for potential candidates to finish playing in the NCAA Tournament and, then, the athletic department needs to go aggressively after candidates like Tony Bennett, whose team is still playing in this year’s tournament. UCLA needs to be considering a guy like Mark Few, whose team played their last game today. Heck, even Texas Tech’s Chris Beard has earned an interview based on his experience as a college head coach.
I’m a patient guy. I haven’t written much about the job since Alford was fired at the end of December because I knew this wouldn’t be done overnight. I did, however, have the expectation that, unlike Steve Alford’s hiring, this coaching search would be done right and that means not interviewing every former UCLA basketball player who thinks he deserves the job.
And, certainly not a guy with a record of winning just 28% of his games after less than a season and a half as a head coach. No way.
UCLA students, alums and fans deserve a much better coach than Earl Watson. The UCLA Athletic Department needs to hire a head coach who has achieved sustained success at the college and/or pro level.
At this point in time, Earl Watson hasn’t even earned an interview for the opening and he certainly doesn’t deserve the job.