Rapid Reaction: Igor Kokoskov is Suns’ new head coach
The Phoenix Suns have their new head coach and it’s Utah Jazz assistant Igor Kokoskov.
A former assistant of head coach Alvin Gentry with the Suns from 2008-13, Kokoskov will replace outgoing interim coach Jay Triano, who three games into the 2017-18 season took over for fired head coach Earl Watson.
For more on the hire, here is the rapid reaction from 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station’s hosts and editors.
John Gambadoro, Co-host of Burns & Gambo
I want to go back to something Alvin Gentry told me when I first called him and asked his thoughts on Igor Kokoskov, who was his assistant when he coached here in Phoenix.
“He might not win the press conference but he will win you a lot of games,” Gentry said.
And that is exactly the point.
Immediately after the announcement of the hiring, I heard from former Suns legend and GCU head coach Dan Majerle who told me “Igor is a really good coach. A lifer. Lives to coach.”
The consensus in the coaching fraternity is that the Suns got the right guy. And they did. Kokoskov runs a great offense built on ball movement, passing and spacing. The Suns are young and talented and Kokoskov is a great Xs and Os coach who excels at calling great plays out of timeouts and on inbounds plays.
He will continue what Jay Triano started in developing the young talent. He may not be the big name. He may not make the big splash. But he should be able to win here in Phoenix because the bottom line is he is a good coach.
Dave Burns, Co-host of Burns & Gambo
My initial reaction was completely devoid of surprise. The coaching search took a noticeable downshift from names like Budenholzer, Fizdale to coaches like Triano, Borrego and Kokoskov. Nothing wrong with those names but it felt like a downshift. Once Triano was eliminated — and that was a surprise — the name that made the most sense was Kokoskov.
I have yet to hear a negative word about him. Respectable NBA people, coaches and media alike, rave about his ability to develop talent and connect with younger players. Will one of those players be Luka Doncic? It’s not a given that the Suns will draft the European star, it might not even be possible after the lottery. But certainly Kokoskov knows Doncic well, good and bad, and that knowledge will be invaluable if and when a decision needs to be made.
My hope all along was that the Suns would do something bold with their coaching hire. Something with a little bit of “wow” power. Hiring Kokoskov is clearly not that but that’s OK. The smart move trumps the bold move almost every time.
Vince Marotta, Co-host of Bickley & Marotta
The hiring of Igor Kokoskov as the next head coach of the Suns is a good one. Kokoskov is a respected assistant with some head coaching experience with his Eurobasket championship stint coaching the Slovenian team that featured prized guard Luka Doncic.
Even if Doncic isn’t the Suns’ draft target in June, Kokoskov should pay dividends with the Suns’ young talent moving forward. In addition to this hire being historic (Kokoskov is the first full-time NBA head coach born and raised outside North America), it caps maybe the most thorough coaching search in franchise history.
Kokoskov spent five years as an assistant in Phoenix, so he knows the lay of the land and has experience working under Robert Sarver as well.
Doug Franz, Co-host of Doug & Wolf
From everything I’ve read and the handful of people I’ve talked to, this is a good hire. People that know the game better than I do like this hire.
It also creates a very interesting dynamic for the draft. Kokoskov will be better than any other coach in basketball at helping Slovenian national team future draftee Luka Doncic adapt to the NBA since Kokoskov was his head coach in the past.
I don’t have a problem with Kokoskov the person. I have a problem with what his hiring represents.
I feel like 95 percent of rookie head coaches are cheap and controllable. If I’m right, then this hire is par for the course for Robert Sarver. If Sarver is selling the team, I love this hire. If he’s not, I don’t see how the hiring of another inexperienced head coach changes anything.
Jordan Byrd, Producer of Burns & Gambo, Host of Arizona Sports Saturday
I never was buying the idea that the Suns would be able to snag any of the big names that were being thrown around as their next coach, so with that in mind, I’m perfectly fine with the hire of Igor Kokoskov. It certainly isn’t a splashy hire for the casual Suns’ fan but that isn’t what they needed as an organization developing young players.
When you look at the progress some of the young Jazz players have made while Kokoskov has been in Utah, it makes me believe that he is well suited to take the core of the Suns to the next level and develop whoever might be their first-round pick this summer.
Kevin Zimmerman, Editor
Given the circumstance, the Suns couldn’t have done much better.
Kokoskov has coached under Larry Brown and Flip Saunders and has earned enough trust — and kept it — across the league to be hired by both Alvin Gentry and Quin Snyder not once each, but twice. He’s proven at the international level he can coach ball-dominant players to seamlessly share duties.
But at the end of the day, his success or failure will be determined by how the Suns improve the roster this summer.
Kellan Olson, Editor
Kokoskov is exactly what the Suns needed for the development of their young core after attempting to grow under the misguidance of Earl Watson.
He is going to know exactly what he wants out of guys like Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss while optimizing his system around the likes of Devin Booker, Josh Jackson, T.J. Warren and whoever they select with their own first-round pick this summer.
Where I pause is how his plans for growth could potentially conflict with the front office’s intentions of accelerating #TheTimeline, but it’s hard to complain given Kokoskov’s impressive track record.