Phoenix Suns head coach Igor Kokoskov admits that he is feeling the pressure as he Slovenian met the media ahead of a landmark first season in charge.
The 2017 Eurobasket winner is about to be the first NBA coach born outside of North America and he knows that his reputation and indeed the reputation of coaches from Europe and other areas of the continent are at stake.
The Suns finished the NBA season with a 21-61 record, which left them rock bottom of the Western Conference.
Kokoskov knows that the deck is stacked against him, but this was a man that led Slovenia to an unlikely Eurobasket title last summer and what was even more impressive was that against such nations as Spain, Serbia, Latvia and Russia, they won the title without losing a game.
“I feel a little bit of pressure, in a way that if this experiment does not sustain, then maybe the American public will question if we need foreign coaches, because we invented this game and we are the best in the world,” Kokoskov told ‘The Jim Rome Show‘.
The 46-year-old has already made changes to the Suns bench this season by hiring long-time lead assistant Joe Prunty to his coaching staff. Prunty, like Kokoskov has international experience as he coached the Great Britain national side from 2013 to 2017, only stepping down because his NBA commitments would clash with FIBA’s new international schedule.
Kokoskov has vast NBA knowledge, having been an assistant for 18 years with one of his stops being in Phoenix. And despite not being in the hotseat until now, he has always considered himself an NBA coach.
“On the other side, I have been in this league for 18 years and I consider myself as an NBA coach,” he says. “There are two types of coaches. You can get it done, you can win, or you can lose. There is nothing in between. Maybe I was lucky to get a coaching job if I’m good enough then the quality will show.”