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CLIPPERS REPORT

Kokoskov Drawing Praise

April 01, 2001|LONNIE WHITE

As the NBA's first foreign assistant coach, Igor Kokoskov--a native of Belgrade, Yugoslavia--has played a key role in the development of many of the Clippers' young players this season.

Center Michael Olowokandi and Zendon Hamilton, who has spent the majority of the season on the injured list, have credited Kokoskov for improving their games.

"Igor is an excellent teacher whose strength is working one-on-one with the players," Coach Alvin Gentry said Saturday. "The stuff he has done with their footwork is unbelievable. . . . He has spent time every single day working with them."

Kokoskov, who joined the Clippers in training camp, has been in the U.S. for nearly three years after being a pro coach in Europe for several years. He worked with Clipper assistant John Hammond last season at Missouri, where he became the first European coach to hold a full-time position with an NCAA Division I school.

"Because of the rules, the NBA is a players' game," Kokoskov said. "But it is great for coaches. You can recognize how the players change with every game, with every practice. They are learning all of the time."

But after Kokoskov joined the Clipper staff, his father became seriously ill in Belgrade. Kokoskov left the team shortly before the all-star break in February to return home and has been trying to follow his father's progress from long distance ever since.

"This is the greatest season for me in my career [as a basketball coach] because I made history as the first non-American coach," Kokoskov said. "But it is also my worst because of my family. It's a very bad combo. I have a great feeling about the job that I am doing and a terrible feeling that something wrong is happening with my family. It is very hard to control your emotions right now."

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