Last Sunday the Phoenix Suns fired their young head coach, Earl Watson. Three days earlier, my son Aaron and I traveled to Phoenix as invited guests of Earl Watson and the Phoenix Suns to sit in on practice, have dinner with the coaches, and watch the Suns take on the Los Angeles Lakers. Coach Watson invited us after being the luncheon keynote speaker at the NAHREP National Convention in Dallas. In my opinion, Coach Watson was put in a no-win scenario. He inherited the youngest team in the league with promising but unproven talent and very little veteran leadership. In retrospect, Aaron and I are still amazed at how gracious and considerate Watson and his team hosted us considering the excruciating pressure he was under. Considering that we were his only guests that weekend, it would have been more than understandable if he cancelled our trip for another time. To the contrary, we were treated like VIPs for the two whole days we were in Phoenix – having dinner with Watson and Marquese Chriss, and allowing us to sit courtside during practice. It was extraordinary. For those of you who got the chance to see his speech in Dallas, you know that Earl Watson has overcome adversity before. He comes from a rough neighborhood in Kansas City, raised by a working class Latina mother. His grandparents were undocumented immigrants from Mexico who overcame unspeakable challenges to provide their kids and grandkids with a better chance in life. He was a talented basketball player but was never considered a strong NBA prospect. After a stellar career at UCLA where he spent weekends hanging out with the legendary John Wooden, Watson went on to play 13 years in the NBA. At age 36, he became one of the youngest head coaches in the history of the NBA. Earl Watson has been here before and if he were a publicly traded company, I would be buying his stock right now. In 2010, the Phoenix Suns fired their GM – another young former player by the name of Steve Kerr, who is now the head coach of the two-time defending world champion, Golden State Warriors. I’d say coach Watson is in good company.
The NFL markets its brand as well as any enterprise in the world. I heard a comedian once say that the NFL is so popular, it has its own day. NFL football is huge. Each NFL franchise brings in approximately $400M a year in revenue; almost double the annual revenue of NBA teams and 2 ½ times as much as MLB clubs.