The Phoenix Suns must keep Igor Kokoskov

Igor Kokoskov Phoenix Suns (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
Igor Kokoskov Phoenix Suns (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images) /

The Phoenix Suns have had four head coaches in their last four seasons. They must keep Igor Kokoskov and break the streak of constant change on the bench.

When Robert Sarver allowed for the firing of Alvin Gentry in 2013, little did anyone know that the Phoenix Suns would enter into an abyss of constant change at head coach, highlighted by the hiring of some of the worst possible head coaches the league has ever known.

Gentry should have never been fired, and honestly should still be on the bench today, slowly rivaling John MacLeod for the longest tenured head coach in franchise history.

Instead the team has suffered through the short stint of Lindsey Hunter, the unsuccessful era of Jeff Hornacek (who too should have never been fired, but because of the Morrii was forced out), the worst head coach in franchise history, Earl Watson (yes, he was worse than Hunter, Terry Porter, and even Butch van Beda Kolff – look him up, Millennials), the longest interim period in franchise history from Jay Triano, and now, for one season so far, Igor Kokoskov.

Today I could accurately argue why Gentry and Hornacek should have never been fired, and with that level of confidence argue too why Kokoskov not only deserves to be retained, but also demands a public vote of confidence by Sarver and finally full-time general manager, James Jones:

He was saddled with only 3/5’s of a team, a roster that even Phil Jackson or Pat Riley could not have guided to the playoffs.

Phoenix Suns
Phoenix Suns /

Phoenix Suns

Certainly some will argue that initially he struggled with rotations; that his lack of anger on the bench (and thus his dearth of technical fouls) is a little odd if not disconcerting; and that no one should survive a 19-63 record let alone demand a public vote of confidence. But when that head coach takes over a job and within weeks is on his second general manager and is never given either a competent point guard or a starting-caliber power forward, none of those other things should matter.

Because of the handcuffs and ankle weights that he was forced to wear throughout the season, it is impossible to know exactly how good, or even bad, of a head coach he is.

Let’s look at it from this perspective: an NBA team without a point guard is akin to an NFL team without a quarterback. But while all NFL teams carry a backup QB with enough experience to guide them through short stints under center, imagine instead, like the Suns, a head coach is forced to place a WR to take the snap?

I could just see the headlines now: “[Team] is last in league in passing yards. [Coach] is on hot seat.”


Should that NFL head coach be fired because he couldn’t get his team to the playoffs or show improvement over the course of a full season, although the entire time he was handcuffed by a lack of an important part of the roster?

Absolutely not, and this same level of understanding must be applied to Igor guaranteeing his return next season, opening the 2019-20 season without a measurable temperature on his seat.

Oh and on that NFL scenario once more: the Suns were without a quality starting power forward as well. Dragan Bender started 27 games averaging only 7.3 points and 5.6 rebounds in those games.

Imagine that that quarterback-less NFL team was also without a running back too.

You can’t blame the coach.

The situation is simple and Igor Kokoskov was not the problem.

Does he have things he needs to improve upon, sure. But he also deserves a legitimate shot with a real roster and depth at every position.

If this summer Jones acquires a legitimate point guard and power forward, he maintains depth, he doesn’t stick to the formula of having the youngest team in the league and instead adds reasonable veteran talent however he can, and the Suns don’t win at least 35 games next season, then sure, I’d be all for moving on.

Plus, even if the worst happens and Igor isn’t able to coach up a more talented team, it’s not like the roster will have lost much in the way of it’s prime.

Unless Jones acquires Kevin Durant and Kemba Walker while retaining Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton, the 2019-20 Phoenix Suns team isn’t going to compete for a championship anyway, regardless of who is acquired.

The risk, in that sense, is low, but at least in the meantime, the franchise is able to stabilize a bit, the players can finally have a full offseason with a legitimate head coach overseeing improvements, and they can enter next season with the same voice as they left this just completed one.

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Igor Kokoskov needs to be retained. He deserves the chance to actually coach a full and complete NBA team, and unless Riley or Jackson are willing to come to the Suns to replace him, he deserves a public vote of confidence as well.