Life of Earl Watson

Life of Earl Watson

You know you are in the presence of greatness when you can’t stop listening or smiling. Some people just have “glow” or that “it.” 

Earl Watson JR has that “IT”

Below is the nuggets I learned from Earl during my time at the CBA Academy.  Enjoy the read and I encourage you to add these concepts to your game & life!


I always check the source before I “lean in.” Earl’s pedigree speaks for itself:

  • Grew up in the hood of Kansas City
  • NBA vet, played 13 years in the league
  • Played and/or Coached for Hubie Brown, Mike Fratello, Nate McMillian, Larry Brown, Greg Popovich, Dwayne Casey, Bob Hill, Jerry Sloan, Jim O Brien, Larry Bird, Terry Stotts, and was mentored by vet, Gary Payton! His coaching tree is EPIC!
  • He never went 5 on 5 during the season. He wanted his players to use the game as a refresher 
  • If there were 8 seconds left in shot clock, they loved the middle pick and roll (MPR)
  • Hubie’s biggest concept on offense was PACE AND SPACE. Movement among all else. Teams that move and exchange on weak side take away the help in the strong side 
  • They always teach to take 2 dribbles off P/R so that you have space 
  • They taught “swipe by’s” on defense. Swing with hand away from D’s body 
  • As a Coach, if you change philosophy, your players lose trust. Have a foundation and stick with it. Have your NON – NEGOTIABLE’S, adjust some minor things and players will always trust you. 
  • Hubie always stopped practice if you did not pass the ball on and with the seams  
  • Earl hates when defenders were attached. He was constantly getting away from them or smacking their hands off 
  • Ray Allen arrive at the gym at 3pm, KOBE would get there by 2pm. They don’t have many guys like that in the league anymore, if any, that would do whatever it takes!
  •  Hubie always said this: If we fail, try these four solutions:
    • Do it HARDER
    • Do it BETTER
    • Do it SMARTER
    • Do it STRONGER
  • Earl’s three best learning experiences:
    • Spurs – he learned his coaching philosophy. How to love and care for players through real relationships. How to teach and lastly great offensive system
    • Hubie –  Accountability, honesty, trust
    • Jerry Sloan (UTAH) – how to coach TOUGH
Ganon Baker Coaching
Miscellaneous Nuggets

– His coaching interview with the Spurs was 3 days long 

– You can’t teach tough. Tough comes from your upbringing, surroundings, parents, mentors. Most kids that grow up privileged are not that tough. It takes a special kid to be that way from that kind of environment

-You can’t win without toughness 

– Earl grew up where everything was competitive, nothing was passive.

– Pop, Hubie, Sloan all related to their players as people as well as basketball players 

– When he played for Portland they made you wear watches that tracked your sleep

– Most superstars were very efficient in their approach and ALL practiced serious and hard

– To coach a superstar teach them about LIFE and BASKETBALL 

– Earl played music during drills at practice and especially during defensive shell drill

– you have to have TALENT & TOUGHNESS

– It takes 3-5 years to be an NBA ELITE PLAYER

– He found out some coaches DO NOT want to coach talent. Coaching talent is difficult. Why? Expectations go up, your knowledge has to go up. Some Coaches get intimidated by the talent 

– Earl believes in purposeful talk

– When Earl was scouting players, he looks for the most powerful player, not the most popular.  An example is Jonathan Simmons. He was not on anybody’s list but Earl loved him and told them to draft him.

– When leading kids, MEET THEM WHERE THEY AT! Meaning, whatever they are going through, start relating to them there, presently. You can’t coach and lead kids like you did when you grew up or 15 years ago. Basketball is 2nd, coach the person first. 

– If you lead from your generation, you lead from the DEAD. Meet your players where they are currently and bring them to where you want them to be. You lead from the generation of the future. Don’t fight today’s generation on social media, be mindful.

– Young coaches need OG’s. Young coaches don’t need to hang out with young coaches. They need to hang out with old dudes who have some basketball life in them and can TEACH YOU. 

– EVERY generation is distracted. Embrace it and help them focus daily. Give them practical solutions

– SPACING is the most important concept to Earl on offense. 

– Assume players know nothing. Teach the simple details 

– The Spurs rule is when you catch the ball, you have 0.5 to 1 second to make a play 

Good to Great is the best business book out there. So teach your players to be good to great! 

– If you have no words you have no culture. Your vocabulary sets the standards for your program 

– Spurs teach cut baseline every time on post feed to get help out and to clear middle

–  No one creates concepts and drills in basketball. Everyone steals, morphs, copies. They take from people they VALUE. Find a group of people that you value and stick with it. 

– If Jerry Sloan was mad at you, he would make you run FLEX during the game 

– Get hips lower than your opponent’s hips and you win that game. 

– In basketball, there are “games within games.” Dee Brown always said keep “your antennas up,” while you play. Be aware. 

– Basketball is a game of momentum. Swings, possessions, keep playing NEXT PLAY 

– Earl said relationships are very important. Always try to play and lead with integrity. In all you do. Be true to the game. True to the rules. 

– To have a career in the NBA or anywhere, BE COMMITTED AND DO EVERYTHING WITH DETAIL. This will get you longevity

– Earl noticed that Championship teams HAVE UNREAL PASSION for each other and the TEAMS SUCCESS 

– NBA career is three years on average

– If players don’t talk, make them talk in drills, make them NARRATE. Players have to be like an “Air Traffic Controller,”  an operator, customer service salesperson. Tyson Chandler was one of the best talkers he ever saw 

– 2 Types of Leaders 1) One who Leads (Front)  2) One who guides (Front, Back, Middle)

– Often the best player is not the team captain 

– Coaches, have your point guards teach the drills. They have to learn how to lead while they are tired. TALKING WHILE TIRED IS A SKILL

– Beyoncé sings while she runs on a treadmill. She practices singing while being winded because she dances while singing in her performances 

– As a leader, build players up, don’t MESS them up

– The most undervalued asset is REST

– How you treat someone is your thumb print 

– Sometimes having played the game as a player will help you out when you need to solve problems as a coach. 

– Earl always said “I’m a hooper, I will FIGURE IT OUT. We hoopers figure s**t out”

– Gary Payton after a loss one night with the SuperSonics he told the flight attendant to take the food back, “ain’t NOBODY EATING TONIGHT.”

– Best Practice for a Switch on P/R is: 

  1.  Back it up, get space, attack downhill
  2.  Boomerang Pass, get back, attack

– NBA players are so smart. They react quickly and read so quickly. 

– Middle & high school kids nowadays are SO AFRAID TO FAIL. WHY? They go to school all day and educators teach them to take tests and not learn. Schools tell them everything. The phone does everything for them. They are always told it’s right or wrong. So kids don’t have a creative chip or a solution chip to figure it out. 

So, when you coach them, they freeze up if they have to make a choice at high speed. Run your practices where they have to work together, talk and figure problems out.

– A great formula for strength and injury prevention:

  3. SLEEP 

– Many high school teams should run NBA CONCEPTS ON OFFENSE. Why? Because the NBA is the best in the world at utilizing the space on the court.

– NBA offense is always using two-guard fronts, filling two pro slots, two corners, the last player fills anywhere except middle (unless MPR) 

– Earl high encourages reading Phil Jackson’s Book, 11 Rings: The Soul of Success 

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