Igor Kokoskov is leaving the Phoenix Suns to join Mike Brown’s coaching staff with the Cavaliers, a league source confirmed Wednesday. The move was first reported by ESPN.com and the Arizona Republic.
Kokoskov has been an NBA assistant for 13 years, including the past five with the Suns. He survived three coaches during those five years and was instrumental in assisting inexperienced interim coach Lindsey Hunter this season. He is viewed as a bright offensive mind and became Hunter’s lead assistant after Alvin Gentry was fired at midseason, handling the offense while Hunter ran the defense.
Kokoskov, 41, was a rising basketball star in Serbia, but severe injuries sustained in an automobile accident when he was 19 prematurely ended his career. Five years later, he became the youngest coach in Serbian history (then Yugoslavia) and later became the first full-time European assistant coach in NCAA history when Quin Snyder hired him at Missouri in 1999. When the Los Angeles Clippers hired him the following year, he became the first foreign assistant coach in NBA history. Kokoskov won a championship as an assistant with the Detroit Pistons and has served as the head coach of the Georgian national team for the last five years.
“I think he has one of the brightest minds as there is in the game,” Gentry told the Republic for a story three years ago. “He’s an unbelievable teacher. … As long as I have a job, I’ll always have a spot for Igor.”
There is a connection between the Cavs and Kokoskov. Assistant GM David Griffin worked in Phoenix and even attended Kokoskov’s ceremony to become a U.S. citizen three years ago.