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The Suns’ New Coach Could Be a Boon for Their Young Team

Phoenix announced it will hire Utah’s Igor Kokoskov, a longtime assistant with experience developing guards—and coaching Luka Doncic

NBA: Miami Heat at Utah Jazz Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

The News: The Phoenix Suns have announced they will hire Utah Jazz assistant Igor Kokoskov to be their next head coach. He will sign a three-year deal with the team, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Kokoskov will remain with the Jazz for the rest of their playoff run.

Who Is He? Kokoskov is a native Serbian who has been both a nomad and a trailblazer for his country on the coaching front during his 18 years in the NBA. He will be the first European-born full-time head coach in the league’s history.

In 2000, Kokoskov became the first non-American assistant coach when then-Clippers head coach Alvin Gentry plucked him from the University of Missouri’s coaching staff, where Kokoskov was an assistant. Kokoskov then coached in Detroit under Larry Brown in 2003, winning a title with the team in 2004. In 2008, Kokoskov had his first stint in Phoenix as an assistant before moving to the Cavaliers’ staff in 2013 and the Magic’s staff in 2015. The Jazz hired him after one season in Orlando, and he’s been in Utah ever since.

Kokosov has also had a long international coaching career. He served as head coach of the Georgian national team from 2008 to 2015, and he most recently led Slovenia to a gold medal during last season’s European championship. That team featured none other than Luka Doncic, a projected top-five pick in the upcoming draft.

What Does He Bring to the Suns? Aside from a pretty diverse coaching background and pedigree, Kokoskov is said to have a great relationship and connection to Doncic. The Suns have the best lottery odds to land the top pick in the draft. This doesn’t ensure they’ll take Doncic if he were available, but should the Suns select the dynamic Slovenian wing, they’ll have the perfect coach suited for him and a pairing that has already won together.

Kokoskov was the first coach in line to receive a promotion in Utah after Quin Snyder and his staff vaulted the Jazz from a disappointing summer following Gordon Hayward’s departure to a surprisingly successful season that has them in the second round of the playoffs.

“I told him for a number of years, I think he’s a head coach in the NBA,” Snyder said last month.

Though Kokoskov is a first-time head coach in the NBA, he’s no rookie after serving on staffs across the league. At 46 years old, he’s still on the younger side, and has proved he can be successful at helping develop and improve players—especially those in the backcourt including Ricky Rubio and Donovan Mitchell. The Suns need help on that front. Between Josh Jackson, Marquese Chriss, and Dragan Bender, they have a bevy of young pieces that have shown flashes, but are in clear need of developmental help. And while Devin Booker looks like a future star, he could also use a coach that can help him take the next step. Phoenix has bet on Kokoskov to help them make that leap.