Nuggets head coach Michael Malone has been hired by the Serbian national program to be a consultant and a top aide for Igor Kokoskov during this summer’s Olympic qualifying efforts, as Nick Kosmider of The Athletic tweets. Marc Stein of The New York Times first reported (via Twitter) that the two sides were in advanced discussions.
Although Kokoskov – the former Suns head coach and current Kings assistant – will run the show for Serbia this summer, Malone’s experience with Nuggets star Nikola Jokic makes him a natural fit to be involved with the team as well. Mike Singer of The Denver Post notes (via Twitter) that Malone’s involvement is likely contingent on Jokic participating.
With his contract locked in through 2023, there’s no reason to think Jokic won’t play for Serbia in the summer, barring an injury. After a disappointing showing at the 2019 World Cup, the Serbians will be vying for one of the four remaining spots for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, with Denver’s big man leading the way.
One of those four Olympic qualifying tournaments in June will be held in Belgrade — Serbia will need to win that tournament to advance to Tokyo.
Malone becomes the latest in a line of NBA head coaches who are involved in international programs. Gregg Popovich, of course, will coach Team USA in the 2020 Olympics and may be joined by assistants like Steve Kerr and Lloyd Pierce, who were on Popovich’s World Cup staff. Brett Brown and Nick Nurse coach Australia and Canada, respectively.