Belgrade, Serbia — Golden State assistant coach Dejan Milojevic was buried Monday in his native Serbia, with many Warriors staff members among the hundreds of mourners present for the funeral on a rainy day at a Belgrade cemetery.
Among the Warriors coaches and staff who made the trip: head coach Steve Kerr, assistant coaches Chris DeMarco and Ron Adams, general manager Mike Dunleavy, basketball team and business liaison Zaza Pachulia , and team vice president for player health and performance Rick Celebrini.
Kerr and staff members who attended the funeral missed Monday night’s postponed game at Utah. The Warriors were in Salt Lake City when Milojevic, 46, suffered a heart attack during a team dinner on Jan. 16. He died the next day, and that night’s Jazz-Warriors game was postponed.
Assistant coach Kenny Atkinson was serving as head coach for Monday’s postponed game.
“It’s obviously not the ideal situation in a lot of ways,” Atkinson said before the game. “And then from a personal point of view, adding that we’re here in Utah, where Deki had the incident… it’s difficult. But that’s what we do in our profession. professionals. We must move forward, but also remember.
Milojevic — whose flower-draped coffin was carried Monday by his former Serbian teammates — was a mentor to two-time NBA MVP Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets, among many other players. Milojevic was part of the staff that helped the Warriors win the 2022 NBA championship.
The Warriors honored his memory by putting his initials on their jerseys and on their home apron. Atkinson spoke with Kerr on Monday, both about the funeral and the game.
Milojevic’s death sparked a huge outpouring of sympathy from the basketball community and fans in his native country, where he was a star player for Partizan Belgrade and other clubs in Serbia, Montenegro, Turkey and Spain before turning to the coach.
Predrag Danilovic, president of the Serbian Basketball Federation, said that no one respected or liked Milojevic.
“A great basketball player, a great coach has left us, and above all a great man, a man without a single blemish. I had this honor and pleasure to be friends with him even though we didn’t play together,” Danilovic said at an official commemoration for Milojevic on Saturday.
Marko Keselj, from the Serbian Sports Ministry and a former basketball player, said the sport was Milojevic’s life.
“With his positive energy, he brought out the best in us,” Keselj said. “He motivated us to be better in every way, as people and as players. Deki was a friend, a mentor, he was a leader.
Milojevic was in his third season with the Warriors. He previously coached in Serbia – where he once worked with a young Jokic before the current Denver star came to the United States – as well as Montenegro, and was also an assistant coach for the national team Serbian alongside current Atlanta assistant Igor Koskoskov.
Milojevic worked closely with Jokic, Los Angeles Clippers center Ivica Zubac, Orlando center Goga Bitadze and Houston center Boban Marjanovic, among others, during his coaching tenure in Europe.
Milojevic won three consecutive MVP awards in the Adriatic League, which includes teams from the former Yugoslavia, winning those trophies in 2004, 2005 and 2006, when the 6-foot-7, 240-pound power forward was at the top of his playing career. Jokic was MVP of this league in 2015.
Before joining the Warriors, Milojevic had NBA experience through Summer League assistant coaching positions in Atlanta, San Antonio and Houston.
Milojevic is survived by his wife, Natasa, and their children, Nikola and Masa.
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