EMPIRE OF THE SUNS
Suns GM Jones’ remarks back up unrealistic expectations for Kokoskov
PHOENIX — Phoenix Suns general manager James Jones spoke Wednesday at a press conference two days after firing Igor Kokoskov, and his words reflected an organization that is constantly shuffling direction.
That has been made clear by the Suns firing either a general manager or coach three straight years. Jones’ new hire will be the team’s fifth head coach in the past five seasons.
Jones even admitted to the instability, saying Phoenix hired Kokoskov to lead more of a veteran-oriented team.
“The reality is our team … we shifted focus,” he said. “When he came in we had Trevor Ariza, Ryan Anderson, Tyson Chandler. We had a veteran team and you fast-forward and we’re a team with four rookies in the rotation so it was just a different team for him.”
When Kokoskov was hired by then-GM Ryan McDonough, the team touted his skills of helping to grow inexperienced players like former Suns point guard Goran Dragic. It’s hard to grasp why a coach like Kokoskov was brought in to lead veterans as opposed to developing the team’s young talent.
There’s strike one.
When it comes to Kokoskov’s performance in terms of player development over a 19-63 season, Jones seemed to infer that the problem was this: Kokoskov’s job in that department didn’t translate to wins.
“My approach to player development is one where the development has to translate,” he said. “So you can work on all of the skills, the group skills, but if they don’t translate then that’s not development.”
That’s strikes two and three.
That was as far as Jones would go into the reasons for Kokoskov’s firing. He wouldn’t get into what specific issues led to dismissing the head coach.
The Suns changed their plan midseason on what they wanted to do, putting Kokoskov in an impossible situation. And did we mention that original plan sucked in the first place?
Still, Kokoskov managed to develop the youth well. Anyone who watched the Suns over the course of the season saw the dramatic improvement of rookies Deandre Ayton and Mikal Bridges. Dragan Bender, Devin Booker and Kelly Oubre Jr. had career years under Kokoskov.
He didn’t get Ayton the ball enough and struggled with in-game adjustments, but that’s about as much as you could ask for given the roster Kokoskov had to work with.
Apparently, the Suns actually could ask for more and he was fired.
Outside of the team facility, it was assumed the biggest reason to keep Kokoskov was not because he could potentially develop into a good coach with time, but because stability for a young team led by a development-minded coach was the right call.
Well, that’s not what Jones thinks.
“Having stability for the sake of stability isn’t something we are into,” he said.
While the core point of what Jones is saying does come through, that’s still a frightening declaration considering the franchise’s recent history.
Jones was asked if he thinks the Suns hiring their fourth new coach in five seasons will hamper their ability to get who they want in the coaching search.
He stated the impossible, that they are not concerned.
What can you expect Jones to say? But the Suns need to project as much clarity in their future plans as possible (also known as stability), and Wednesday didn’t do anything to calm the anger and nerves of an uneasy fanbase.