Phoenix Suns hire Igor Kokoskov as new head coach
PHOENIX – The Phoenix Suns have agreed to terms with Igor Kokoškov (kuh-KOS-kov) to become the team’s new head coach, making him the first head coach born and raised outside North America in NBA history. Kokoškov will begin his duties as Suns head coach following the conclusion of the Utah Jazz season.
“We are thrilled to bring Valley resident Igor Kokoškov back to Arizona as head coach of the Phoenix Suns,” said General Manager Ryan McDonough. “Igor has been a pioneer throughout his basketball career and he brings a wealth of high level coaching experience to our club. He was one of the first non-American born assistant coaches at both the NCAA and NBA levels and his most recent head coaching stint includes leading the Slovenian national team to the 2017 EuroBasket title, which was the first European title in the history of the country. Igor’s teams have always had a player development focus, a creative style of play and a track record of success.”
Kokoškov, 46, will be the 19th head coach in franchise history. He is currently in his third season as an assistant coach with the Jazz and 18th season overall as an NBA assistant coach since becoming the first non-American assistant coach in league history in 2000. Kokoškov has helped the Jazz reach the Western Conference Semifinals in each of the past two seasons as the team’s lead assistant coach.
Kokoškov previously worked with the Suns as an assistant coach from 2008-2013 and was on the bench for the team’s 2010 Western Conference Finals run. In addition to his time as an assistant with the Jazz and the Suns, he has been an assistant coach with the Orlando Magic (2015), Cleveland Cavaliers (2013-14), Detroit Pistons (2003-2008) and Los Angeles Clippers (2000-2003). Kokoškov has been on the coaching staff of seven teams to reach the Conference Finals, two teams to reach the NBA Finals and won an NBA title as an assistant coach with the Pistons in 2004, becoming the first non-American assistant to be an NBA Champion.
A native of Belgrade, Serbia, Kokoškov is an accomplished international coach on top of his extensive NBA experience. As head coach of the Slovenian national team from 2016-2017, Kokoškov guided the nation to a gold-medal finish and perfect 9-0 record at FIBA EuroBasket 2017 as Slovenia captured its first-ever European Championship. He also was head coach of the Georgian national team from 2008-2015, qualifying for EuroBasket three times which Georgia had never accomplished previously.
In 1999, Kokoškov became the first European coach to hold a full-time position with an NCAA Division I basketball program as an assistant coach at the University of Missouri under Quin Snyder, whose coaching staff Kokoškov has been a member of with the Jazz for the past three seasons.
On June 18, 2010, while an assistant coach in Phoenix, Kokoškov became a U.S. citizen in a special ceremony on the Suns’ court at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Kokoškov and his family have maintained a home in the Valley since his first tenure with the Suns.