Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
FILE: Coach Igor Kokoskov talks with Utah Jazz guard Ricky Rubio (3) as the Utah Jazz players practice as they prepare to play the Oklahoma City Thunder in game two of the NBA playoffs in Oklahoma City on Monday, April 16, 2018.

HOUSTON — As the Utah Jazz prepared to play Houston during Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals at the Toyota Center on Wednesday, May 2, 2018, breaking news leaked about a member of the coaching staff.

Former assistant Igor Kokoskov was officially hired as head coach of the Phoenix Suns.

After the Jazz’s 116-108 road victory, Jazz coach Quin Snyder heaped praise on his good friend for earning the opportunity.

“I think Phoenix is getting a guy that is both a terrific teacher, a tactician," Snyder said during his postgame press conference.

Nearly a year later, at the same site, Snyder addressed Kokoskov’s recent firing after just one season in the desert.

“We talked and I don’t need to comment on the situation,” Snyder said. “You can imagine kind of my thoughts, but I will say having worked with Igor recently and over the years, as far back as the previous century, I know what a quality coach he is and the kind of person he is.”

Early Tuesday morning, Kokoskov was fired just a couple of weeks after his first season ended.

Phoenix went 19-63, which was the worst record in the Western Conference, but the team hasn’t reached the playoffs since 2009-10. Phoenix also hasn’t won more than 24 games in a season since 2014-15, so Kokoskov was already placed in a difficult position for his first NBA head coaching gig. He made history as the league’s first-ever European-born head coach.

His relationship with Snyder stems well beyond their years spent together on the Jazz coaching staff from 2015-18, but began more than two decades ago when Kokoskov first toured the United States as a young coach while living in Belgrade, Serbia and Snyder was at Duke. They have been close buddies ever since then.

During the regular season, Snyder even praised him as a “genius” who taught him things about keeping the game simple.

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“There’s no doubt in my mind that he’ll have future opportunities and anytime you’re in a program and it’s your first year with whatever type of adversity,” Snyder said. “When something’s new there’s always challenges. Obviously, as a coach it’s always unfortunate when you see a colleague let go and with Igor it’s much more personal than that for me.

“Like I said, I know how good he is, he’s got a world championship under his belt in Slovenia, he was instrumental for us when I first started and what he did for me personally with support and his intellect, he’s got an unbelievable mind and a feel for the game, so it’s unfortunate,” he continued. “But I think knowing him, he’ll move forward and look for his next opportunity, which I’m certain will be there.”