One season was apparently enough time for the Phoenix Suns to decide Igor Kokoskov was not long-term coach they wanted.
Phoenix fired Kokoskov — the first European-born coach in NBA history — early Tuesday morning, two weeks after he finished his first season as an NBA coach. The former Utah Jazz assistant and Slovenian national team coach guided a Suns team that finished with the worst record in the Western Conference (19-63).
“After extensive evaluation, I determined it is best to move in a different direction with our head coaching position,” Suns president of basketball operations James Jones said in team statement. “I want to thank Igor for his work this past season and wish him the best with his future endeavors.”
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports that the Suns are hoping to hire Monty Williams to replace Kokoskov. Williams coached the New Orleans Pelicans from 2010-15, going 173-221 while making the playoffs twice (2011, ’15), where he amassed a 2-8 career postseason record.
Williams is reportedly also a top candidate for the Los Angeles Lakers, who parted ways with Luke Walton shortly after the regular season concluded.
Despite having high-scoring guard Devin Booker and No. 1 overall pick Deandre Ayton at his disposal, Kokoskov was also left with Isaiah Canaan, De’Anthony Melton and Elie Okobo as his best options at starting point guard before the team acquired Tyler Johnson in February. In-season injuries to TJ Warren and Kelly Oubre further depleted the rebuilding Suns.
Instead of a revitalizing season, the Suns continued to mire in mediocrity, missing the playoffs for the ninth straight season.
Phoenix had a franchise-worst 17-game losing streak in 2018-19 and became the first team in the shot-clock era (1954-55) to be held under 10 points in the first quarter of consecutive games.
Jones became the full-time GM after the Suns removed the interim tag earlier this month and his first big move was to fire Kokoskov, an assistant with the franchise from 2008-13.
Now, Phoenix is in limbo again, searching for its fifth coach in five seasons.
The Serbian Kokoskov spent 18 seasons as an NBA assistant before becoming a coach, including stints with Utah, Orlando Cleveland, Detroit and the LA Clippers. He also was the head coach of the Georgia national team from 2008-15 and led Slovenia to its first EuroBasket title in 2017.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.