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Serbia announce Kokoskov as new national team coach
BELGRADE (Serbia) - Igor Kokoskov has been appointed as the new head coach of his native Serbia, the country's basketball federation announced on Tuesday.
Having been a huge hit first with Georgia's national team, steering it to the first three FIBA EuroBaskets in its history (2011, 2013 and 2015) before taking the helm of Slovenia and leading it to EuroBasket 2017 glory with a victory over Serbia in the Final, Kokoskov now has a job he described as a "professional task that cannot be compared to any other sports challenge so far."
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"My main motivation for taking up this job is precisely the strong personal emotion and desire to finally return to where I started from - after 20 years of working in the NBA and more than 10 years working at FIBA with other national teams," Kokoskov said.
"My coaching thinking is based on the fact that every successful team, above all, builds on the creativity and abilities of the players of that team," he said.
"We in Serbia have never lacked in basketball talent. So my job as coach will be to prepare the players. I also help them make decisions in the best interests of the team. The players I've worked with so far know that my view is that team success always belongs to the players and coaches take responsibility."
"MY COACHING THINKING IS BASED ON THE FACT THAT EVERY SUCCESSFUL TEAM, ABOVE ALL, BUILDS ON THE CREATIVITY AND ABILITIES OF THE PLAYERS OF THAT TEAM."
Kokoskov has been on the bench of his national team before, serving as an assistant to the Zeljko Obradovic-coached Serbia and Montenegro teams at the 2004 Olympics in Greece, and EuroBasket 2005 on home soil. Both of those summers ended in disappointments with the national side coming up short of the Quarter-Finals each time.
Kokoskov helped put Georgian basketball on the map with its successive qualifications to three EuroBasket tournaments in 2011, 2013 and 2015 and he then, with the help of tournament MVP Goran Dragic and rising superstar Luka Doncic, had his finest hour two years ago, guiding Slovenia to the top of the podium in Istanbul.
A long-time assistant in the NBA, he was put in charge of the Phoenix Suns before last season but was let go before the end of the campaign. He is currently an assistant with the Sacramento Kings, working with Serbia veterans Bogdan Bogdanovic and Nemanja Bjelica on a daily basis.
Bogdanovic, one of Serbia's top stars, is coached by Kokoskov already in Sacramento
Serbia shone under Kokoskov's predecessor Aleksandar Djordjevic, at the FIBA Basketball World Cup five years ago in Spain, making a surprising run to the Final. After losing in the Semi-Finals to Lithuania at the EuroBasket the following year, Serbia rebounded by winning the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament 2016 in Belgrade and then making it to the Gold Medal game at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics. In both the World Cup Final and the Olympic title game, Serbia lost decisively to the United States.
Following their second-place finish in FIBA EuroBasket 2017, Serbia qualified for this summer's World Cup in China and were among the favorites to capture the crown yet fell to Argentina in the Quarter-Finals. Immediately after their last game, a win over the Czech Republic in the Classification Round, Djordjevic announced his resignation.
"I am well aware of our performance standards, which have been built over the years by previous generations of players and coaches," Kokoskov said. "The expectations of our fans of the national team have always been high, and the ambitions of the players and coaches are always the highest. I am very aware of that. Every basketball coach in this region dreams of becoming a national team coach."
Bjelica plays for Kokoskov in Sacramento
Belgrade was just named as one of the host cities for the four FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournaments to be played June 23- 28, 2020. The draws for the tournaments will take place on November 27.
"The national basketball team of Serbia will be based, above all, on our best players that are able to respond to the call and who want to wear the jersey of the national team," Kokoskov said. "My first task will be to make initial contact with all potential national team players."
Serbian Basketball Federation President Predrag Danilovic said of Kokoskov's appointment: "We are extremely pleased that such a quality expert and one of the best Serbian coaches will sit on the bench of the Serbian national team in the future. Igor is the best solution to the challenges ahead, as we look ahead to qualifying for the FIBA EuroBasket and the qualifying tournament for the Olympic Games.
"A big thank you to the Sacramento Kings, especially (Vice President of Basketball Operations and General manager) Vlade Divac, for their help and understanding in the implementation of the Kokoskov's involvement, which is very important for the entire Serbian basketball team. I will soon meet with Igor in America, where we will discuss the details of cooperation and plans for the next period."