Rumor has it that former Utah Jazz assistant Igor Kokoskov could be on shaky ground as head coach of the Phoenix Suns.
Life in the coaching game can be one heck of a roller coaster ride, particularly if you’re employed by the Phoenix Suns. Apparently, that goes double for former Utah Jazz coaches and players.
Last spring, Igor Kokoskov left Salt Lake City and a cushy job as Jazz coach Quin Snyder’s top assistant for Phoenix. In doing so, he joined the Suns to become the first-ever person born and raised outside of North America to be an NBA head coach.
Fast-forward to now and some members of the Phoenix media believe that his historic run could already be heading toward crash and burn status. Most notably, radio host John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.
On the Monday edition of Burns and Gambo, Gambadoro had this to say while the Suns were still in the midst of a 17-game skid —
“I do think that this could be it for Igor. I do believe that this could be the last game. They’ve been humiliated. They’re defeated.”
One could simply chalk this up to talk show hyperbole, save for the fact that Suns ownership and management have been flying from the seat of their pants for the better part of a decade. And several Jazz alums have fallen prey to the disharmony.
Jeff Hornacek was the first to go, getting the axe in 2016 despite helping the Suns overachieve during his first two years as head coach. He was replaced by his assistant and fellow former Jazz guard Earl Watson, who was given the hook in late 2017.
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All told, the Suns have gone through six head coaches since 2012. And while Ryan McDonough, the GM who partnered with owner Robert Sarver (who blames millenials for the Suns’ failings) to create the chaos, was relieved of his duties prior to the 2018-19 season, that could ultimately hurt Kokoskov’s standing with the team more than it helps.
New GM James Jones may want to hire one of his own guys as part of his vision for the franchise.
In any case, time will tell whether Kokoskov truly gets a chance to steer the Suns back to respectability. He was definitely hampered right out of the gate when the Suns passed on Euro wunderkind Luka Doncic in the draft.
Kokoskov had seen firsthand what Doncic was capable of when he coached Slovenia to an undefeated run and gold-medal finish at EuroBasket 2017. But McDonough opted to select Deandre Ayton instead. Ayton has been good for the Suns, but Doncic already has the look of a generational player.
If Kokoskov doesn’t make it, though, you can bet there’s still a spot on the Jazz bench with his name on it.