On May 2nd, the Phoenix Suns hired Igor Kokoskov as their 19th head coach in franchise history. He is the first head coach born and raised outside of North America in the history. Kokoskov is currently an assistant coach with the Utah Jazz and has ties to the Suns. He served as an assistant coach for the Suns from 2008-2013 and was on the bench as an assistant under head coach Alvin Gentry when the Suns advanced to the 2010 Western Conference Finals.
Kokoskov was also under Larry Brown on the 2004 NBA championship season for the Detroit Pistons. He led Slovenia to their first FIBA EuroBasket title in 2017 led by former Suns point guard Goran Dragic and one of this year’s top NBA draft prospects Luka Doncic as they took home their first ever title. Kokoskov takes over a very young, but talented Suns roster led by one of the best young players in the league in Devin Booker.
Not only is Kokoskov stepping into a talented young roster, but also the Suns have a shot at landing the number one overall pick in the NBA Draft Lottery. General manager Ryan McDonough and owner Robert Sarver did a good job as he has knowledge and experience not only at the North American level, but the international level. What that means is the desert’s faithful should expect more spacing and position-less basketball. It will be something Suns fans should be excited about heading into 2018 season as a culture change is what is needed to turn the Suns.
A day later the New York Knicks hired the former Memphis Grizzles head coach David Fizdale. Fizdale will become the 29th head coach in Knicks franchise history. The Knicks dismissed Jeff Hornacek on April 12th, one day after the regular season ended. Hornacek posted a record of 60-104 during his two season as the Knicks head coach. Fizdale spent a little over a year with the Memphis Grizzles and went 50-51 as head coach, leading them to the playoffs.
Fizdale was fired by the Grizzles on November 27th after only 19 games in the season. Prior to taking the Grizzles job, he was a long time NBA assistant that began in 2003 with the Golden State Warriors as he also has had stops in Atlanta, 2004-2008, and with the Miami Heat, 2008-2016, where he was a NBA champion as an assistant under head coach Erik Spoelstra, 2012-2013.
With Fizdale now in town, he takes over a young talented roster lead by Kristaps Porzingis who is recovering from a torn ACL. When healthy, Porzingis is one of the best young players in the NBA. They will have a shot at landing a top pick with the lottery taking place on May 15th. Fizdale will bring his passion and personality that should mesh well with not only the team and fans, but the New York media as well. In his first press conference, Fiz spoke to becoming a top defense over sooner than later, running a more spacious offense, and exploiting mismatches with Porzingis at the five spot.
Overall, the Suns and Knicks both got coaches that fans should be excited about. They have the experience and are focused on playing basketball akin to some of the best teams in the league. Patience will truly be a virtue for fan bases that have been playoff-starved the last few years. Also, the new coaches will be important for two 2015 draft class stars in Booker and Porzingis as they rapidly approach free agency in the next couple years. Keeping them happy and seeing winning results will be key for Phoenix and New York.