After watching a parade of assistant coaches leave over the past year, the Toronto Raptors have apparently landed a big fish in replacement. Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports is reporting that the team will add former Suns head coach Earl Watson to Nick Nurse’s coaching staff.
After being pursued by multiple teams, former Phoenix Suns head coach Earl Watson is finalizing a deal to join the Toronto Raptors coaching staff, league sources tell @YahooSports. Devin Booker credited Watson for his accelerated development. pic.twitter.com/I1FQYpBkmr— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) July 26, 2021
Watson led the Phoenix Suns for parts of three seasons, amassing a record of 33-85 in 118 games. He was let go just three games into the 2017-18 season and, since then, has been off the coaching radar.
Still, Haynes reports that several teams had interest in Watson joining their staff, and the fact that the Raptors have come out on top is a big win. If former Pacers head coach Nate Bjorkgren also follows up a Canadian national team coaching spot by rejoining the Raptors, Toronto could enter 2021-22 with a wealth of head coaching experience between he, Watson, and Nurse.
While Watson wasn’t an NBA head coach for long, players have spoken highly of his ability to develop young talent. Devin Booker in particular commended Watson during this year’s NBA Finals:
“I credit Earl (for) a lot. He was one of the early ones in the NBA industry to believe in me to that extent. I think it started with him being my player development (coach) before he was the head coach… He was on the court with me, sweating with me, putting in the work with me and just coincidentally happened that he ended up being the head coach.”
Earlier this month, the Raptors added Trevor Gleeson to the assistant coaching staff, which is already comprised of Adrian Griffin, Jim Sann, and Jon Goodwillie. Over the past year, Toronto has said goodbye to Bjorkgren, Chris Finch, Sergio Scariolo, and Jama Mahlalela — demanding almost a full personnel churn for Nurse.