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The Detroit connection of Zoc

By Rigas Dardalis/

When Joe Dumars was asked in London by Greek reporters of OTE TV channel if he would hire Zeljko Obradovic as his coach, Detroit’s president of basketball operations smiled and said: “He is the best coach in the world”. For many years, Zoc was loved – and still is – as god in Athens where he coached Euroleague powerhouse Panathinaikos and in his interviews he denied any interest to coach in the NBA.

That changed this year, as his longtime assistant Dimitris Itoudis convinced him to attend the training camp of Detroit. For many years Itoudis was present in the summer leagues as a Pistons’ collaborator, but this time he had with him in the States his longtime boss and close friend after their collaboration with Panathinaikos ended after 13 years. It was kind of vacations, as he told Eurohoops, but it was also an experienced that change his mindset for the American league. He met again with Detroit, as a guest of the team in their London game in January.

So, when Lawrence Frank was fired, many thought that Obradovic can really be an option. In his most recent interview he said that if the NBA calls, then “I will think about it”, however he clarified that at this point nobody has called. However, this post supports the opposite, as Zoc is presented as a prime candidate for Detroit’s bench. Since then, his agent Alex Raskovic denied any contact with any team, but you just can’t stop this kind of rumors with a simple denial.

Can Zoc be the new coach of the Pistons? It will be more than a risk for Detroit to hire a European head coach with no experience in the NBA and Obradovic probably will not accept the role of assistant, as his great rival Ettore Messina did with the Lakers. The difference is that Zoc can be introduced to the American public by one of his good friends, who is none other than San Antonio’s Greg Popovich. If Pop can vouch for him, then his hiring wouldn’t be a bad idea.

After all, his closest, most dear friend and mentor, Dusan Ivkovic, was in talks back in 2002 with the Denver Nuggets in order to be the head coach, the first European in the NBA. The deal fall apart and he decided to sign with CSKA Moscow. Maybe his brightest student, Obradovic will have this honor.

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