The Phoenix Suns have agreed to terms with Utah Jazz assistant Igor Kokoskov to become the franchise’s head coach. The two sides reached agreement on a three-year contract, league sources told ESPN on Wednesday.
Kokoskov, a native of Serbia, will be the first head coach born and raised outside North America in NBA history, the Suns said. He will begin his duties as head coach after Utah’s season concludes. The Jazz trail the Houston Rockets 1-0 in their Western Conference semifinal series.
Suns general manager Ryan McDonough met with Kokoskov in Houston before Sunday’s Game 1 and moved quickly to make an offer, league sources told ESPN. The Suns, who finished an NBA-worst 21-61, are working on a major rebuild and need to start crafting a roster and culture around young star Devin Booker.
Kokoskov, 46, has been considered one of the finest assistant coaches in the NBA for 18 seasons, including with the Suns from 2008 to 2013.
Jazz coach Quin Snyder and general manager Dennis Lindsey have credited Kokoskov with a great deal of the growth of Utah’s young roster.
Kokoskov elevated his NBA candidacy as the coach of the Slovenian national team last summer, when he led the tiny nation to an improbable EuroBasket tournament championship, with the Miami Heat’s Goran Dragic and Luka Doncic — the likely top-three overall pick in the 2018 NBA draft — dominating the tournament.
Kokoskov’s knowledge of Doncic, a 6-foot-8 European wunderkind, will be helpful to the Suns in the draft process — and beyond — if the Suns select him.
Dragic and Doncic both took to Twitter on Wednesday to congratulate Kokoskov.Kokoskov was the first European-born assistant in the NBA, with the LA Clippers in 2000. He worked for Snyder at the University of Missouri for a year and won an NBA championship as a member of Larry Brown’s coaching staff with the Detroit Pistons in 2004.
Kokoskov became a U.S. citizen in 2010 in a ceremony on the Suns’ court.