SALT LAKE CITY — To understand the core of Quin Snyder and Igor Kokoskov’s relationship, their three seasons spent together on the Utah Jazz coaching staff was just a small sample size.
It’s way deeper than that.
The close bond they share today as head coaches of the Jazz and Phoenix Suns dates back to more than two decades ago.
Kokoskov was a young man in his early 20s, visiting college programs across America — fresh from overseas in Serbia.
And one of those stops happened to be in Durham, North Carolina at Duke University, where Snyder played ball and served as an assistant coach.
“We really hit it off to the point where we’re in my living room, pivoting, trying to figure out how to teach certain things,” Snyder recalled. “He had this defense that he called Corsa, and it’s a car.
“Kind of a car that has it’s issues and the idea of the defense was that we were going to create so much havoc that no one would know what we’re doing so you get an idea of the conversation but I think at that point we just hit it off that I was resolved at that point that if I got a chance to get a head job that I was going to call him and try to hire him and that kind of says it all right there.”
Snyder certainly stayed true to his word, as he was the first American coach to hire Kokoskov on his coaching staff at the University of Missouri in 1999-00 then again from 2015-18 with the Jazz. Those opportunities set up Kokoskov to become the first-ever European-born head coach when the Suns hired him this season.
So, as he returned to Salt Lake City on Wednesday for the first time as the Suns head coach to face Snyder and the Jazz, naturally there were strong feelings and a mutual respect between the longtime friends.
“I think it’s hard to describe. It goes beyond basketball,” Kokoskov said. “I wouldn’t be here today. He brought me to the United States. I met him on my second trip to the United States and he gave me a job. He brought me to this country.Comment on this story
“Talk about an entrepreneur in this business? That’s Quin Snyder,” he added. He’s my life mentor, not just basketball mentor. Again, changed my life.”
As both guys are busy with coaching obligations, they communicate as much as possible via text messages. Kokoskov didn’t see his return to Utah as weird in any way, but more so a reminder of all the great memories he shared with the organization — including two playoff appearances.
And yes, he still runs the Corsa defense in Phoenix.
“I was born and raised in Serbia and home base is Phoenix and this is like a second home,” Kokoskov said of Utah. “So, great to be back.”