Kokoskov continued: “He did a lot for me as a coach and for the Slovenian national team. He played really well. I think as an organization we helped him to grow as a player. We gave him a role he never had before. He played for Real as a rotation player. He was young, he’s only 18. Playing for the national team he had a completely different role. It was different. And expectations were different. He was a go-to-guy, one of the main players. He found a way and handled that part well. He proved that he deserved that attention and everything we gave to him. I think the team helped him and he helped us. His stats and the way he contributed and helped the team win all the games. It’s unbelievable. Our relationship is good, and our memories are great. The last time I saw Luka was eight months ago. For a young player, eight months is a lot. He’s improved a lot. It was a fun time. I really enjoyed coaching Luka.”
Slovenian officials came to Miami this season begging Dragic to reconsider his decision to retire from the national team, and he declined. The only thing that will lure Dragic back into the international game is if Slovenia makes the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, which won’t be easy especially if he isn’t going to partake in qualifying.
While Dragic’s confidence wavered, Nash, Grant Hill and assistant coaches kept him afloat as he doubted his decision to come to the U.S. “[Kokoskov] was my second father. When I came to the States, he speaks the same language as I do. He was there for me 24/7,” Dragic said. “I owe them a lot that I even succeed in the NBA because of him and Dan Majerle and those guys. “Igor was the main guy. He always talked to me. He always opened my eyes and my head. I always remember him saying, ‘Just put hard work in and be patient.’ He was always saying patience. At that time, I didn’t understand that well and now I really do, I really do. Even now I don’t see him as a coach. I see him as my friend.”