Lakers' Lonzo Ball endorses Earl Watson as successor to Steve Alford as UCLA's next coach

USATSI

UCLA fired basketball coach Steve Alford on New Year's Eve after an abysmal start to the 2018-19 season, and former Bruins star Lonzo Ball already has a replacement in mind: Earl Watson.

Ball, now with the Los Angeles Lakers, threw his support behind Watson, also an ex-Bruin, to succeed Alford in an interview with Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times this week.

"He's a good person, good coach, he helped me a lot, but the job's open," Ball said. "I'd like to see, maybe, Earl Watson get the job. I know Earl personally. I think he has coaching experience in the league. Obviously he went there, he's alumni, so I think he's a good fit."

Watson was a four-year starter at UCLA in the late '90s and early 2000s. He went on to play professionally with the SuperSonics, Grizzlies, Nuggets, Thunder, Pacers, Jazz and Trail Blazers up until 2014. Since then, he's cut his teeth coaching in the professional ranks, first with the Austin Spurs, a G League team, and most recently with the Phoenix Suns, where he served as an assistant and head coach.

There are a number of qualified candidates who will surely get looks to succeed Alford in a permanent role in Westwood, and Watson is certainly among them. But so, too, is Fred Hoiberg, who Matt Norlander reports is the current frontrunner, as well as Nevada's Eric Musselman and many others. 

Still, the support of ex-players is important, and Ball isn't the only former Bruin lobbying for Watson to get a shot at the gig.

Add in the fact that Watson hasn't yet eclipsed 40 years old, relates well to the younger generation and has West Coast ties, and there is good reason he not only has support for the job -- but also a realistic shot at getting it.

UCLA is in no hurry to make its next hire, which will be one of the most important in program history. While Bruins' brass goes about conducting its search, Murry Bartow will maintain the head coaching position in the interim for the remainder of the season.

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