The Phoenix Suns’ coaching search has reportedly ended, and the team will make a little bit of history with its choice.
According to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, the Suns will hire Utah Jazz assistant Igor Kokoskov, a native of Serbia, making him the NBA’s first ever European-born head coach.
The Phoenix Suns are hiring Utah Jazz assistant Igor Kokoskov as their new head coach, league sources tell ESPN. Kokoskov, a native of Serbia, will be the first European born head coach in the NBA.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) May 2, 2018
It seems somewhat absurd that nearly 30 years after Sarunas Marciulionis debuted in the NBA, 25 years after Drazen Petrovic averaged 20 points per game, and 12 years after Dirk Nowitzki won Finals MVP, there has still never been a European head coach, but better late than never.
Kokoskov, 46, is well-qualified to be the first. Born in what was then Yugoslavia but is now Serbia, he coached in Belgrade in the 1990s before landing on the Missouri men’s basketball team’s coaching staff in 1999. A year later, he joined the Los Angeles Clippers, becoming the league’s first European assistant. He has since bounced from the Clippers to the Pistons to the Suns to the Cavaliers to the Magic to the Jazz, developing a reputation as one of the NBA’s best assistants while also leading the Georgian and Slovenian national team.
As an added bonus to the Suns, Kokoskov has coached Slovenian phenom Luca Doncic, who figures to be a top-3 pick in the upcoming NBA Draft and could very well wind up in Phoenix.
The Suns reportedly spoke to numerous potential coaching candidates — including David Blatt, James Borrego, Steve Clifford, Vinny Del Negro, David Fizdale, Kevin McHale and Frank Vogel — before settling on Kokoskov.
Kokoskov will have his work cut out for him with the Suns, who went 21-61 last season with a roster featuring Devin Booker and a crew of young players — Dragan Bender, Marquesse Chriss, Alex Len, Josh Jackson — who have struggled to meet expectations since entering the league as lottery picks. Even with a top young player on the way via the draft, this team won’t make the playoffs anytime soon.
Best of luck to Kokoskov, because he’s going to need it.