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The Philadelphia

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Igor Kokoskov is the first NBA head coach born and raised outside North America http://www.billsauthorizedshops.com/authentic-trent-murphy-jersey , but he reminded everyone at his introductory news conference with the Phoenix Suns on Monday that he didn’t exactly just get off the plane.

”I don’t consider myself as a European coach,” he said. ”I’m an NBA coach.”

Kokoskov, 46, just finished his 18th season as an NBA assistant coach. He’s been with six different teams. Some played slow. Some played fast. He has been on the staffs of seven squads to reach the conference finals. This game is not new to him.

”As a coach, I’m not spoiled,” he said. ”I think your job is to build and create from what you have in front of you. I’m the kind of guy who loves my team. I love my guys and they can feel it.”

Kokoskov was named head coach of the Suns last week but, as an assistant with the Utah Jazz, he had to finish his work in the playoff series against the Houston Rockets before turning his attention to the desert.

He was an assistant with the Suns from 2008 to 2013 and became a U.S. citizen during a ceremony on the court at Phoenix’s Talking Stick Resort Arena.

”We really, as a family, the Family Kokoskov, consider Phoenix as a home base,” he said. ”This is always home base.”

Although he certainly has paid the traditional dues as an NBA assistant, he knows he’ll also have the label ”foreign coach.”

Kokoskov praised the ”courage” of Suns owner Robert Sarver and the team’s management to hire a ”rookie coach, international coach Daryl Worley Color Rush Jersey , foreign coach.”

”I kind of carry some responsibilities because, if this fails, then American media and the public are going to say, `See, they can’t coach. We’ve got to stick with our guys,”’ Kokoskov said.

But any ultimate judgment, he said, will come from what happens on the court.

”It’s all about winning,” Kokoskov said. ”It doesn’t really matter if you’re an international or American coach. All that matters is can you get it done and can you coach?”

He inherits a team that went 21-61, worst in the NBA and second-worst in franchise history. The Suns haven’t made the playoffs in eight seasons but do have the most ping pong balls in Tuesday night’s lottery to determine what team gets the No. 1 overall pick,

Still, Kokoskov said the Suns have ”a good solid foundation.”

”With a couple of guys maybe we’re going to add, obviously we are expecting a lot from the upcoming draft and free agency,” he said. ”That is something that we have a long summer to discuss Hector Rondon Houston Astros Jersey , to talk, but the foundation is there.”

Kokoskov, who coached Slovenia to the EuroBasket 2017 championship, said he’s not wedded to any particular style of play, that it will depend on the talent at hand. When he was with the Suns, there was Steve Nash and it was a fast pace.

”I was fortunate to be part of a winning team and be part of the team with Steve Nash and Grant Hill and the rest of the guys,” he said, ”being part of the staff with Alvin Gentry.”

Kokoskov was there when the Suns advanced to the Western Conference Finals in 2010.

But the years have not been kind to the once-vibrant franchise since Nash’s departure.

General manager Ryan McDonough has said the time is now to inject some more experienced talent into the current mix of youngsters, who are led by burgeoning star Devin Booker.

Kokoskov gets the task of trying to fulfill that ambition.

The team, he said, needs to be playing on television in June, and he wasn’t talking about its perennial appearance in the draft lottery.

”I think the city of Phoenix deserves that,” Kokoskov said. ”I think the fans that love basketball deserve that and we’ll do our best to bring this organization and team into that path. We want to be in June on TV.”




PITTSBURGH — There is nothing routine or stale for the Pittsburgh Penguins as they begin their quest for their third straight Stanley Cup Wednesday night against the Philadelphia Flyers at PPG Paints Arena in a first-round playoff series opener.

“I still pinch myself almost every day that you get to be a part of something like this,” said Pittsburgh goaltender Matt Murray Jaleel Scott Color Rush Jersey , who won each of the past two Stanley Cups while technically a rookie under NHL rules.

“It’s just so exciting. It’s like Christmas when you’re a kid almost. You know how much fun you had watching when you were a kid. I’ll bet you I’ll feel like that for years and years. It’s really cool that I get to be here. I’m just trying to cherish that.”

They’re also trying hard to win it all again, while not overlooking the journey.

“Certainly, the expectation within our room is that we have the ability to compete,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. “We know that it’s hard, and we know that we’ve got to go out and earn it each and every day, each and every game. That’s where our mindset is. I don’t think any of us are trying to reflect on where this team stands.”

The Penguins finished second in the Metropolitan Division, just two points ahead of the Flyers, but seem to enter their first-round series as a bigger favorite than that margin would indicate, more than likely based on Pittsburgh’s recent postseason success.

Philadelphia isn’t arguing that point, but the team isn’t accepting anything as a foregone conclusion, either.

“We didn’t expect very many people to pick us to come out of this series, and that’s OK,” Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said. “There’s a quiet belief in our dressing room. … We’re the underdog. We’re pegged that. We know that. We’re playing against a hell of a hockey team that has a lot of experience at the playoff level. We’ve got to go out and earn it, and that’s what we’ll do.”

There are a couple more tangible reasons for Pittsburgh to be favored.

The Penguins Lorenzo Carter Color Rush Jersey , who have home-ice advantage in the series, were 30-9-2 at PPG Paints Arena during the regular season. They also have the most potent power play in the NHL going into the postseason, with a 26.2 percent success rate.

And then there were the head-to-head meetings. Pittsburgh swept the four games, scoring five goals in each, with star centers Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin combining for 14 points.

“I know we didn’t get the points that we wanted in the games against them, but I think out of the four games, in three of them we played really well and kind of let a few games get away,” Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov told the Philadelphia Daily News. “It doesn’t matter now. It’s a clean sheet now in the playoffs and all our focus is on getting the first win.”Obrázek

Both teams have players who excelled during the regular season. Philadelphia’s Claude Giroux finished second in the league scoring race with 102 points. Pittsburgh’s Malkin was third with 98 points, while teammates Phil Kessel (92) and Crosby (89) ranked eighth and 10th.

The last time these teams met in the playoffs, in 2012, also in the first round, Philadelphia not only upset Pittsburgh in six games but also got under the Penguins’ skins with a physical, agitating style that led to several Pittsburgh star players getting involved in fights and scrums.

The only Penguins remaining from that team are Crosby, Malkin and defenseman Kris Letang Breeland Speaks Color Rush Jersey , but all three engaged in the uncharacteristic behavior in the 2012 series.

“We’re all over 30 years old now. We’re supposed to be mature,” Letang said. “I mean, it was. … whatever it was, it was in the moment. Emotional. We have a different team, different experience, different coaching staff. Everything is different, so we don’t even look at that.”

Philadelphia has five holdovers from that series — Giroux, Sean Couturier, Jakub Voracek, Matt Read and Wayne Simmonds.

Couturier said this time the Flyers’ motivation is to win in a more direct way.

“I don’t think we’ve played our best game or a full 60 minutes against Pittsburgh yet,” he told the Daily News. “I like our chances if we play some good hockey and focus for 60 minutes, maybe even more.”

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