Igor Kokoskov leaving Utah Jazz for head coaching job with Phoenix Suns

Igor Kokoskov while coaching Slovenia at the FIBA Eurobasket 2017 men's final in September 2017. OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images

SALT LAKE CITY — While Utah Jazz Head Coach Quin Snyder remains a candidate for Coach of the Year after the club’s remarkable second half turnaround, even Snyder’s assistants are now reaping the benefits of the team’s surprising success.

Igor Kokoskov is leaving Snyder’s staff to fill the head coaching vacancy in Phoenix.

The Sun’s fired former Jazz player, Earl Watson, after the first three games of the season and rode Jay Triano as their interim head coach the rest of the way, only to finish with the worst record in the NBA at 21-61.

Kokosov is a native of Serbia, and now becomes the first head coach in NBA history that was born and raised outside of the United States.

“We are thrilled to bring Valley resident Igor Kokoškov back to Arizona as head coach of the Phoenix Suns,” said Sun’s General Manager Ryan McDonough. “Igor has been a pioneer throughout his basketball career and he brings a wealth of high level coaching experience to our club. He was one of the first non-American born assistant coaches at both the NCAA and NBA levels and his most recent head coaching stint includes leading the Slovenian national team to the 2017 EuroBasket title, which was the first European title in the history of the country. Igor’s teams have always had a player development focus, a creative style of play and a track record of success.”

The 46-year-old will be the 19th head coach in franchise history. He is currently in his third season as an assistant coach with the Jazz and 18th season overall as an NBA assistant coach since becoming the first non-American assistant coach in league history in 2000.

Kokoškov has helped the Jazz reach the Western Conference Semifinals in each of the past two seasons as the team’s lead assistant coach, and will remain with Utah through the remainder of the playoffs.