Luka Doncic is a sensation. Entering his fourth NBA season, the 22-year-old Slovenian has lofty expectations. He doesn’t just want to win his first playoff series, he has his sights set on something bigger: he wants to win an NBA championship.
Between him and the Larry O’Brien Trophy are 29 other teams, 82 regular season games, and 16 playoff wins. Although he looks like the best player on the floor nightly, Doncic can’t do it all by himself. He must rely on his teammates and look to the coaching staff for guidance.
“My job—and my coaches and his teammates—is to help him achieve his goals, not just individually, but as a team,” Dallas Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd says. “We understand we’ll work backwards. It all starts with that gold trophy, the championship, and then all the individual stuff will come with that.”
Doncic has already amassed plenty of individual accolades. He was the 2019 Rookie of the Year, named to the 2019 All-Rookie First Team, a two-time All-Star, and is a two-time All-NBA First Team selection. That’s a better three-year resume than most NBA careers.
Even with everything he’s already accomplished, there’s still more than he can learn. That’s where Kidd and his newly installed coaching staff come in. Kidd was deliberate when choosing his assistants, bringing in experienced coaches and even one who has a history with Doncic.
Igor Kokoskov coached Doncic when he played for the Slovenian national team in 2017. That team went on to win the EuroBasket championship. With the Mavericks, Kokoskov is calling the offensive plays, and his past relationship is paying dividends.
“He’s great,” Doncic says of Kokoskov. “He’s been a coach in the NBA. He knows the deal. He’s an amazing person and he helps us a lot—not just me, the whole team.”
It isn’t just Kokoskov who brings a winning culture to the coaching staff. Kidd won rings as a player with the Mavericks and as an assistant coach with the Los Angeles Lakers. Greg St. Jean and Jared Dudley also won a championship with the Lakers as an assistant and player, respectively. Then there’s Kristi Toliver, a two-time WNBA champion.
“She brings that championship mentality,” Doncic says. “I think she’s been great for us. She helps a lot with all the players, talking to them and so far she’s been great.”
The pieces to build a championship culture are in place. Kidd made sure of that. Still, so much is riding on Doncic to carry the franchise further than it’s been in a decade. But before the Mavericks can pop champagne in June, Kidd must impart what he knows to a player that’s emerging as a face of the NBA.
“For me, it’s just about communicating what I see and what I hear,” Kidd says. “To share that information—it’s just about gathering as much information as I can to hand off to him. He does a great job of being able to break down that information and be successful with it. That’s what you do and have fun along the way.”