Igor Kokoskov is ready to cook with Suns GM McDonough’s ingredients
PHOENIX — Whatever coach the Phoenix Suns were going to hire this offseason knew what they were getting into.
While they have a roster that has appeal in its own ways, the Suns are coming off a 21-win season after finishing with the worst record in the NBA.
There is a process underway in Phoenix led by general manager Ryan McDonough, but it still has a long way to go. There’s an exception, though, as he has a front office with aggressive intentions in mind to radically accelerate the team’s timeline.
A coach that accepts that process was going to be the right fit, and from everything new head coach Igor Kokoskov said in his introductory press conference on Monday, he’s that guy.
“I think it’s a good day for (the) Phoenix Suns,” Kokoskov said. “Good day in a way that maybe in a year from now, three years or five years from now, then you can say this was a special day.”
How much Kokoskov values the relationship with McDonough and vice president of basketball operations James Jones shined through the brightest.
Kokoskov knows his front office wants to make moves and he’s ready to see what he has in front of him after this offseason.
“My job as a coach is to adjust to what we have,” he said. “So, (the) ingredients (are) coming from Ryan and I’ve gotta cook for us.”
As an NBA assistant since 2000 and national team head coach for Georgia (2008-2015) and Slovenia (2016-present), Kokoskov is holding onto his past experiences. He is ready to make his style what is right for the players in front of him.
“I was fortunate enough to be with good teams and not so successful teams, which you learn a lot from the games and the times when you struggle,” he said.
“We (played) slow in Detroit (and won) a championship. We (played) fast with Steve Nash here. So just your ability to adjust to the new situation helps you to get it done.”
He also likes what he sees from the team before some potentially radical changes.
“We have a great foundation that we can build really, really strong,” he said.
Kokoskov wants to implement anything but a lackadaisical approach to development and winning. That foundation being young doesn’t mean it’s an excuse for their struggles.
“There is no young or old. There is just good or bad teams,” he said. “We have to work hard to get better.
“We’ll never hide behind it and try to be younger and use it as (an) excuse. We’ll try to win the game in going younger and even relying on upcoming draft picks.”
With that, the 46-year-old wasn’t ready to elaborate on how he will develop a young roster and isn’t ready to make grand proclamations before the draft and free agency.
“We’ll see what we have,” he said. “Once the camp starts then you have 14, 16 guys. You gotta feel the energy — one guy can change a lot. From the chemistry on the court to a rotation standpoint.”
As a first-time NBA head coach, Kokoskov is far from naive about goal-setting and his approach strategically.
Through his willingness to shape his ideas for the roster, it will be about victories.
“It’s all about winning. You’ve gotta win the games,” he said.” I have to be ready to adapt and adjust my philosophy to what we have. As a young coach, you don’t have (a) philosophy. You have opinions, you have thoughts, you have ideas and you build your philosophy through winning seasons (in your) career.”