Watson replaces Jeff Hornacek, who was fired Sunday night, per The Vertical's Adrian Wojnarowski.
Before joining the NBA's coaching ranks, Watson spent 13 years in the league with six different franchises. Mike Richman of the Oregonian tweeted that the 36-year-old was clearly transitioning into a new career as his time as an active player wrapped up:
Mike Richman @mikegrich
In his lone season in Portland, the Blazers players and staff often called Earl "Coach Watson" https://t.co/deQ1qpIY1X2016-2-1 23:03:08
Prior to his time on the Suns' staff, Watson was an assistant for the Austin Spurs, the San Antonio Spurs' NBA D-League affiliate.
Hiring Watson on an interim basis is a smart move by the Suns. The franchise isn't going anywhere this season and owns a 14-35 record, tied for second-worst in the Western Conference. Leading scorer Eric Bledsoe is out for the rest of the year, which only adds to the team's problems.
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Phoenix is better off waiting until the offseason to either commit to Watson on a full-time basis—should he prove himself worthy—or hire an available replacement who will have more time to work with the roster.
Plus, the team Watson is inheriting might look different by the time the 2015-16 season ends. Bleacher Report's Dan Favale argued general manager Ryan McDonough should move some of the team's assets, including point guard Brandon Knight and shooting guard Archie Goodwin.
A little over two weeks remain until the Feb. 18 trade deadline, so McDonough still has time to gauge interest league-wide in any of his players as he looks to plan for the long term.
Former star Steve Nash would've been an intriguing option to take over for Hornacek, but he removed himself from consideration and doesn't seem to have any interest in a coaching role at the moment, per ESPN.com's Marc Stein.
On one hand, the Suns aren't putting Watson in a good situation, since Phoenix's fortunes aren't going to turn around. If the team keeps losing, it will only increase the likelihood of ownership going in a different direction at head coach.
However, Watson will gain invaluable experience on the sideline between now and the end of the year, which he could then use to get another shot in the NBA at some point down the road. Considering how relatively young he is as a coach, this shouldn't be Watson's first and last crack at being a head coach.