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FORMER PORTLAND ASSISTANT EXPLAINS WHY HE'S JOINED FORCES WITH PHOENIX COACH EARL WATSON/



TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Jay Triano, who is leaving the Trail Blazers coaching staff to work under 36-year-old Phoenix Suns coach Earl Watson, says the two developed a good connection when the veteran point guard finished his playing career with Portland in 2013-14.Jay Triano can number his final days as a Portland resident.

Next Friday, the former Trail Blazers assistant will be in Toronto as head coach of the Canadian national team that will attempt to qualify for the Olympic Games.

The Canadians will engage in a week-long training camp, head for Italy for some practice games and then fly to Manila to take part in one of three qualifying tournaments for the Olympics. Canada must beat out Senegal, Turkey, France, New Zealand and the Philippines to earn one of the final three spots for Rio de Janeiro.

After that, Triano will set up camp in Phoenix, where he has taken a job as associate head coach to Earl Watson, the new head coach of the Suns.

“I’m excited about it,” Triano says. “It’s a good move for me personally.

“I have nothing but great things to say about my experience in Portland and with Terry (Stotts, the Blazers’ head coach). It was a fantastic four years here.”

Triano, 57, developed a strong relationship with Watson during his single season with the Blazers in 2013-14 — the windup to a 13-year NBA playing career spent mostly as a reserve point guard.

“We talked a lot of basketball and shared a lot of ideas and thoughts,” Triano says. “I’m a big fan of the game. I watch a lot of basketball. Earl is the same. We would connect and talk about the things we saw the night before in a variety of games. And we became friends from there.”

Watson began last season as an assistant coach in Phoenix, then took over as interim coach when Jeff Hornacek was fired on Feb. 1. The Suns removed the “interim” tag after the season and gave Watson a three-year contract as head coach.

It would seem that Triano will serve in a mentor capacity for Watson, who turns 37 on June 12. Triano, head coach of the Toronto Raptors from 2008-11, envisions a role similar to the one he served as Stotts’ unofficial lead assistant.

“I’ll try to help Earl as much as I can to be a good head coach,” Triano says. “From working with me in Portland, he has a pretty good understanding of what I brought to Terry.

“Earl’s a young coach. I’ve been around for little bit. I hope to continue to give him ideas and let him bounce things off me. He has a great future in the coaching business.”

Triano says it was “a very tough decision” to leave Portland.

“Terry, Neil (Olshey, the president/general manager) and the whole organization have been nothing but fantastic,” Triano says. “But I feel that to grow as a coach, I need to spread my wings a little bit, and maybe a new environment is best for me.”

Triano says money was not an issue.

“The Blazers were extremely generous,” he says. “I helped Terry as much as I could. We’re good friends and always will be. I enjoyed everybody on the coaching staff. Everything here was fantastic. I just felt that for my professional development, the chance to work with somebody new is the best thing for me.”

Triano insists weather wasn’t a factor, either.

“I spent a lot of years in Vancouver (British Columbia), and I really like the Pacific Northwest climate,” he says. “It’ll be different, for sure. I’ve been in Toronto, where it snows; in Portland, where it rains, and now in Phoenix, where the sun shines.

“But as a basketball coach, we’re not outside that much during the season. We’re in gyms or on the road most of the time.”

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