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Earl Watson
Earl Watson
Watson playing for the Jazz.
Toronto Raptors
Position: Assistant coach
League: NBA
Personal information
Full name: Earl Joseph Watson Jr.
Born: June 12, 1979 (1979-06-12) (age 45)
Kansas City, Kansas
Nationality: Flag of the United States American
Physical stats
Listed height: 6 ft 1 in (2.13 m)
Listed weight: 199 lbs (68 kg)
National Basketball Association career
Debut: 2001 for the Seattle SuperSonics
Final game: 2014 for the Portland Trail Blazers
Career information
High school: Washington
(Kansas City, Kansas)
College: UCLA (19972001)
NBA Draft: 2001 / Round: 2 / Pick: 39th
Selected by the Seattle SuperSonics
Playing career: 20012014 (13 years)
Coaching career: 20142017, 2021–present
Position: Point Guard
Number: 25, 8, 2, 11, 17
Career history
As player:
2001–2002 Seattle SuperSonics
20022005 Memphis Grizzlies
2005–2006 Denver Nuggets
20062009 Seattle SuperSonics / Oklahoma City Thunder
2009–2010 Indiana Pacers
20102013 Utah Jazz
2013–2014 Portland Trail Blazers
As coach:
2014–2015 Austin Spurs (assistant)
2015–2016 Phoenix Suns (assistant)
20162017 Phoenix Suns
2021–present Toronto Raptors (assistant)
Career highlights and awards

Earl Joseph Watson Jr. (born June 12, 1979) is an American professional basketball coach and former player who is an assistant coach for the Toronto Raptors of the National Basketball Association (NBA). He played college basketball for the UCLA Bruins, where he was a four-year starter and named All-Conference as a senior in the Pac-10 (now known as the Pac-12). Watson was drafted by the Seattle SuperSonics in the second round of the 2001 NBA Draft with the 39th overall selection. He played 13 seasons in the NBA with seven teams before becoming a coach in 2014. He was the head coach of the Phoenix Suns from 2016 to 2017.

High school and college career[]

Watson is a graduate of Washington High School in Kansas City, Kansas. In his senior year of high school he averaged 23.4 points, 8.3 assists, and 14 rebounds per game.

Watson was a starter in college at UCLA, at one point playing alongside future NBA All-Star Baron Davis. They were the first two freshmen to start at UCLA since the 1979 season. A four-year starter, Watson started the most consecutive games in the history of UCLA basketball. As a senior in 2000–01, he averaged 14.7 points (2nd on the team, 9th in the pac-10), 5.2 assists, (1st on the team, 2nd most in the Pac-10) 3.7 rebounds, 0.3 blocks, and 1.9 steals (most in the Pac-10, most on the team) per game. He earned first-team All-Pac-10 honors.

Professional career[]

Watson was selected in the second round (39th overall) by the SuperSonics in the 2001 NBA Draft. In the 2007–08 NBA season, Watson averaged 10.7 points and 6.8 assists with the Sonics. On February 6, 2008, Watson recorded his first-ever triple-double in a game against the Sacramento Kings. Watson logged 23 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists in 32 minutes. It was Seattle's first triple-double since Ray Allen registered one on January 28, 2004, against the Los Angeles Lakers.

On July 17, 2009, Watson was waived by the Thunder. He signed a one-year deal with the Indiana Pacers on July 28, 2009.

He signed with the Utah Jazz on September 26, 2010.

On July 10, 2013, he signed with the Portland Trail Blazers.

Watson retired as a player on October 2, 2014.

NBA career statistics[]

Legend
  GP Games played   GS  Games started  MPG  Minutes per game
 FG%  Field goal percentage  3P%  3-point field-goal percentage  FT%  Free-throw percentage
 RPG  Rebounds per game  APG  Assists per game  SPG  Steals per game
 BPG  Blocks per game  PPG  Points per game  Bold  Career high

Regular season[]

Year Team GP GS MPG FG% 3P% FT% RPG APG SPG BPG PPG
2001–02 Seattle 64 0 15.1 .453 .364 .639 1.3 2.0 .9 .1 3.6
2002–03 Memphis 79 2 17.3 .435 .341 .721 2.1 2.8 1.1 .2 5.5
2003–04 Memphis 81 14 20.6 .371 .245 .652 2.2 5.0 1.1 .2 5.7
2004–05 Memphis 80 14 22.6 .426 .319 .659 2.1 4.5 1.0 .2 7.7
2005–06 Denver 46 10 21.2 .429 .395 .627 1.9 3.5 .8 .2 7.5
2005–06 Seattle 24 0 25.1 .432 .420 .731 3.0 5.4 1.3 .1 11.5
2006–07 Seattle 77 25 27.9 .383 .329 .735 2.4 5.7 1.3 .3 9.4
2007–08 Seattle 78 73 29.1 .454 .371 .766 2.9 6.8 .9 .1 10.7
2008–09 Oklahoma City 68 18 26.1 .384 .235 .755 2.7 5.8 .7 .2 6.6
2009–10 Indiana 79 52 29.4 .426 .288 .710 3.0 5.1 1.3 .2 7.8
2010–11 Utah 80 13 19.6 .410 .336 .671 2.3 3.5 .8 .2 4.3
2011–12 Utah 50 2 20.7 .338 .192 .674 2.4 4.3 1.1 .4 3.0
2012–13 Utah 48 4 17.3 .308 .179 .680 1.8 4.0 .8 .2 2.0
2013–14 Portland 24 0 6.7 .273 .286 1.000 .6 1.2 .2 .0 0.5
Career 878 227 22.2 .411 .324 .703 2.3 4.4 1.0 .2 6.4

Playoffs[]

Year Team GP GS MPG FG% 3P% FT% RPG APG SPG BPG PPG
2004 Memphis 4 0 15.5 .533 .000 1.000 2.3 1.8 1.3 .0 4.8
2005 Memphis 4 0 18.5 .333 .111 1.000 2.5 3.8 .8 .3 4.8
2014 Portland 4 0 3.5 .000 .000 .000 .3 .3 .0 .0 0.0
Career 12 0 12.5 .400 .077 1.000 1.7 1.9 .7 .1 3.2

Coaching career[]

On October 2, 2014, Watson was hired as an assistant coach by the Austin Spurs of the NBA D-League, effectively ending his 13-year playing career. He joined the Phoenix Suns as their new assistant coach on July 30, 2015. However, after a poor start to the 2015–16 season, the Suns fired coach Jeff Hornacek and replaced him with Watson as the interim head coach for the rest of the season. While Watson would make his coaching debut on February 2, 2016 at home against the Toronto Raptors, it wouldn't be until February 27, almost a month later, where he'd record his first win with the Suns at home against the Memphis Grizzlies, a team he had previously played under. He would then get his first two-game winning streak on the road as a coach with victories on March 4 against the Orlando Magic and March 6 against the Grizzlies, respectively. After starting out the season with only one victory in ten games for February, he'd end the season with an 8–15 record the rest of the way, including ending the season with a 3–1 stint.

On April 19, the Suns announced that they had agreed to a three-year deal with Watson due to the positive nature he had that was instilled upon the team after he was first hired, making him the full-time head coach of the team. At the time of his promotion to permanent head coach, Watson was the second-youngest head coach in the NBA (behind only Luke Walton), being 36 when he first started coaching. Watson also became the first former UCLA Bruins player to become a head coach in the NBA, as well as the first NBA head coach of Hispanic descent. During Watson's first full season as head coach, he continued to promote the same philosophical mindset he had for the Suns back when he first started coaching them, but he'd also adjust the team's focus to being more involved with defense first and then offense second.

After the Suns got off to a 0–3 start to the 2017–18 season, with two blowouts (including the worst loss in franchise history and worst season opening performance in NBA history), Watson was fired on October 22, and replaced on an interim basis by associate head coach Jay Triano for the rest of the season.

Earl worked as a PAC 12 Network and NBA TV studio analyst from 2019 to 2021 before joining the Toronto Raptors as an assistant coach this past season.

Personal life[]

Watson's father, Earl, is African-American and his mother, Estella, is Mexican-American. Because his maternal grandparents were born in Mexico, Watson was eligible to play for the Mexico national basketball team. Watson has four brothers and one sister. He is also involved with the local Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Arizona. One of his brothers, Dwayne, was a retired police officer who died due to blood clots in his legs that were dislodged during an altercation. The assailant, Tremaine Quinn, was sentenced to 36 months of probation for the action. That incident would be a major driving force for Earl to take up coaching in basketball.

On May 16, 2009 he married actress Jennifer Freeman. They have a daughter together. They separated in 2011.

Watson has stated he takes coaching inspiration from UCLA all-time great John Wooden.

Watson is considered a supporter of the Amateur Athletic Union programs, saying that the right program and right people involved can lead towards more positive experiences for the people involved. He also stated that he likely would have never gotten a scholarship for UCLA if he didn't have the AAU around. He is part-owner of AAU program Earl Watson Elite. He also joined LaVar Ball's Junior Basketball Association committee.

Watson started Earl Watson Early Childhood Center, a preschool in his hometown of Kansas City.

Establishing 70 Earl Watson Elite travel teams on the west coast has helped Earl develop a strong connection in grassroots basketball. Becoming the first head coach in the NBA of Latino descent has allowed Earl to lead the way for diversity in leadership in sports along with receiving a multitude of other awards, including:

  • 2019 UCLA Latino Alumnus of the Year
  • NAHREP - National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professions
  • 2017 Vanguard Award
  • NCLR - National Council of La Raza - Roberto Clemente Lifetime Achievement Award
  • Establishing the Earl Watson Early Childhood Center in 2013
  • 2006 Reasons to Believe Award
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