Without formally interviewing anyone else, the Phoenix Suns retained Earl Watson as their head coach for next season.
Watson was named interim coach after Jeff Hornacek was fired on Feb. 1.
The team went 9-24 under Watson, finishing the season with the second-worst record in franchise history (23-59). But General Manager Ryan McDonough liked what he saw from the young coach, who played 13 seasons in the NBA after he was drafted out of UCLA.
“He reminds me of a young Doc Rivers,” McDonough said at a news conference on Tuesday. “When they speak there’s some natural leadership qualities and characteristics that kind of emanate from them.”
Watson got a three-year contract.
“He has that relationship where he knows how it is to be a player,” said Devin Booker, one of the league’s most promising rookies, at the news conference announcing Watson’s hiring. “But at the same time when he speaks as a coach, everybody listens. He’s gained that respect from everybody in the locker room.”
In an interview after the news conference, Watson said he had wanted to be a coach from the moment, as a UCLA freshman, he walked into John Wooden’s condominium.
“The way he spoke to me and the way he talked to me inspired me to be more than just a basketball player,” Watson said, “to one day have the ability to connect, reach young people, inspire, change lives, however you want to put it, to make them a better man.”
Playoff injury report
Stephen Curry’s troublesome right ankle has no serious structural damage.
The reigning NBA most valuable player underwent an MRI exam on his injured right ankle Tuesday in the Bay Area, and the Golden State Warriors said nothing of concern came up on the test. Curry remained questionable for Game 3 of his team’s playoff series on Thursday in Houston. Curry missed Monday night’s 115-106 victory against the Rockets at Oracle Arena after cutting short his warmup routine because his troublesome ankle was tender.
Add star Dirk Nowitzki to the long injury list for Dallas in the playoffs. Coach Rick Carlisle said Nowitzki bruised his right knee when he fell early in the Mavericks’ 85-84 Game 2 win Monday night over Oklahoma City in a first-round playoff series that is tied 1-1.
Nowitzki joins a list of players who might miss Game 3 on Thursday, including starting guards Deron Williams and J.J. Barea and backup forward David Lee.
Partners in the broadcast booth, Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson are now rivals in the hunt for the Minnesota Timberwolves’ coaching job.
The Timberwolves planned to meet with Jackson after interviewing Van Gundy and former Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, a person with knowledge of the process told the Associated Press.
Jackson and Van Gundy have teamed up with play-by-play man Mike Breen to form ESPN’s top NBA broadcast team. Thibodeau is widely considered the most coveted coach on the market.