Ring of Honor member Dan Majerle, one of the most popular players in Suns history, will return to the team’s bench as part of coach Terry Porter’s staff.
A league source also told the Tribune late Thursday that Alvin Gentry will likely return for a fifth season with Phoenix and remain the lead assistant — the role he had last season under Mike D’Antoni — while former Chicago Bulls head coach and five-time NBA champion Bill Cartwright is also expected to join Porter’s staff.
The Suns also announced Friday that Igor Kokoskov, an assistant under Porter in Detroit, will join the staff.
Majerle, 42, a broadcaster for the Suns for the last four years, was a teammate of Porter’s for one season in Miami and the two quickly became friends. Sources said Porter asked Majerle to consider the idea of becoming an assistant just after taking the job on June 7 and that Majerle accepted the position sometime this week.
Majerle will have a hand in Phoenix’s defensive strategies.
“Terry’s a winner, a solid guy who hit a lot of clutch shots, one of the guys you hated playing against,” Majerle said just before Porter’s introductory press conference on June 9.
“But when I played with him in Miami he quickly became one of my favorite teammates. He’s a really good guy, the guy you want to go into battle with.
“Those Portland teams … was a big the reason why we got Charles (Barkley), because we always ran into Portland in the playoffs. I know he’ll demand a lot from his players and he should.”
Cartwright played 15 years in the NBA and won three titles with Michael Jordan (1991-93) with the Bulls, including one as a teammate of Suns general manager Steve Kerr. After six years as an assistant coach with the Bulls (including two more championships), he succeeded Tim Floyd as Bulls head coach on Dec. 28, 2001. The Bulls were 51-100 during his tenure before he was fired early in the 2003-04 season.
Majerle played eight of his 14 years with Phoenix after being drafted 14th overall in the 1988 draft.
The selection was booed by fans at Phoenix draft headquarters, but then-coach Cotton Fitzsimmons chastised the crowd saying, “You’ll be very sorry you ever booed this young man.”
Fitzsimmons was right. Majerle’s work ethic and hustle were an instant hit with fans, and he played a major role on Phoenix’s 1993 Western Conference championship team — the group that fell to Chicago in the NBA Finals in six games.
The team further honored him by instituting the Dan Majerle Hustle Award.
After stops in Cleveland and Miami, Majerle returned to Phoenix in 2001-02. He stands 10th in NBA history with 1,360 3-pointers made.
Kokoskov (kuh-KOS-kov), 36, joins the Suns’ coaching staff after spending the last five seasons with the Pistons, including the last two with Porter, where Detroit reached the conference finals in each of those campaigns. Prior to joining the Pistons, Kokoskov served as an assistant with the Los Angeles Clippers under then-head coach Alvin Gentry, becoming the first full-time, non-American assistant coach in NBA history.
Kokoskov returned to his native Serbia and Montenegro to serve as the head coach of the Serbia and Montenegro national team at the 2004 Athens Olympics and the 2005 European Championships.