Wonder how the players felt about Suns head coach Igor Kokoskov, and how they felt about him getting fired?
Phoenix Suns General Manager James Jones spoke with media on Wednesday after he fired head coach Igor Kokoskov after just one season on the job. Many around the league and even fans were surprised at the early dismissal given the circumstances but a lot changed and Jones admitted that.
The first year NBA head coach came into a situation thinking he would be coaching a veteran team with players like Trevor Ariza, Ryan Anderson and Tyson Chandler — heck even a mid-20s point guard in Isaiah Canaan! — but they were all gone midway through the season leaving Kokoskov with four rookies in the rotation. I don’t think a mastermind like Gregg Popovich could’ve done much better than a 19-win season given that roster so Kokoskov was doomed from the start.
A lot can happen in an NBA season from trades to injuries, which the Suns certainly had their fair share of. Unfortunately, this industry doesn’t care about what’s going on as long as you’re winning and they didn’t have that on their side either.
The Suns did have some stretches of promise but overall, it was another disappointing season. Now, they will have five head coaches in five seasons, something most would look at as dysfunctional, but for Jones they weren’t going to keep a head coach for the sake of being stable.
“Having stability for the sake of stability isn’t something we’re into,” Jones said. “So I just wanted to make sure as we plot a new course for the franchise that we were able to reset and can focus on our future stability.”
Over the course of the next few weeks, the Suns will be focused on finding a new head coach that fits a certain mold and can build a winning culture in Phoenix.
Most importantly though, Jones wants to find someone who can build strong personal relationships with his players both on and off the court.
“We want a leader,” Jones said. “Someone that can relate to our players. Someone that will challenge them, someone that will force them to thrive in a competitive environment.”
Not to take any jabs at Kokoskov but this is what he lacked. He didn’t know how to relate to his players and didn’t hold them accountable on the court. You can compare him to David Blatt, the former Cleveland Cavaliers coach who LeBron James chased out of there because of his inability to know how to coach him or stand up to him.
Many felt that Kokoskov lacked exactly that. He didn’t establish personal connections with his players, he had trouble holding his guys accountable and figuring out the proper way to coach each individual player.
I’ve talked to several Suns players (who will remain anonymous) about the coaching situation. One player said that Kokoskov is a great assistant coach but not a head coach. Another told me that many of them would leave huddles or practice confused about what Kokoskov wanted them to do on the court. There was definitely a cultural and communication barrier between him and his players and it showed in many situations.
Another player said, “Good coach, just tough situation. Smart though, will definitely be a head coach again.”
Kokoskov is a good coach but there’s something about his too calm of a demeanor that makes it hard for his players to want to step up and fight for him. Everyone has their own coaching styles and personalities, but the whole point of being a leader is to learn to adapt and change on the fly as needed. In his defense though, being a first time head coach would be difficult for anyone. He was still getting a feel for the franchise and one year isn’t enough to get that full experience of being comfortable enough with who you are as a coach and the players you’re coaching.
Phoenix is interviewing Monty Williams on Friday, a guy who has experience with winning, coaching veterans and rookies and having a good relationship with players and coaches across the league.
He’s a brilliant basketball mind that could bring a winning culture back to Phoenix but I have questions. Will Monty want to come into a situation like the one in Phoenix? Again, five coaches in five years, a team that hasn’t made the playoffs since 2010. Will he know how to handle an owner like Robert Sarver who has gotten too involved with the decisions that happen on the court? These are all relevant questions we must ask ourselves and unless Phoenix can propose a deal too good to pass up, Monty (or any coaching candidate for that matter) may not want to be a part of the cleanup.