By Eurohoops team/ firstname.lastname@example.org
Zeljko Obradovic is the most successful coach ever in European basketball, but coaching in the NBA is a very different animal.
Talking to “Arena Sport TV“, where he also praised Nikola Jokic’s basketball IQ, Obradovic talked about the main difference in coaching, which practically explains why it’s hard for a European coach to make a direct transition.
While admitting that NBA teams have “a perfect system”, he recalled a discussion he had in the 90s with Rick Carlisle: “He insisted on sitting down with me and (ed. note: current Crvena Zvezda coach) Dusko Ivanovic. Then I coached Real Madrid. He knew everything about us. He knew my reactions, and Dusko’s reactions, and one of the things he said was that in the NBA, 80% of the coaching job is based on the relationship with the players, and 20% is basketball, details. “I know how you work, I know the details of your attack, I know the details of your defense”. That was 25 years ago”.
As for the difference in the way the teams and coaches work, Obradovic added that he modified his way of doing things after his NBA experience: “From the moment I came back from Detroit, which was 2012, I was thinking why are these people doing training in the morning? Of course, it’s a perfect system. From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., there is team training, then it ends. They have an incredible number of coaches, someone who works individually, they work on shooting, or in the gym. After that, I started working in the same way. I do one training session and the players like it. Even we like it. I think that these are some things that when you think about and accept that they were once impossible”.
The Pistons and Obradovic
Back in 2012, when he left Panathinaikos. Obradovic flirted with the idea of coaching in Detroit, however, the talks never reached the contract negotiation stage: “To be honest, I never had a concrete offer for the NBA. In all honesty, I spent 40 days as part of the Detroit Pistons organization. It’s the best league in the world. And they take from us and we take from them. I had the opportunity to be part of the team, I even received daily compensation. When I arrived Joe Dummars told me he wanted me to talk about all the details I was seeing. We talked about a possible engagement, but those are some things between us”.
Obradovic at this stage of his career doesn’t seem interested in getting an NBA chance and he explained why in his opinion some NBA teams would prefer young coaches from Europe, like Toronto did with Darko Rajakovic: “I want to be clear and precise. That stay there was fantastic for me. At one point I had a call from a manager inviting me for an interview. I didn’t understand that, I asked what an interview was, isn’t it given to journalists? This summer I also attended a seminar held by Sergio Scariolo together with Dummars. Before that, he was in the Toronto Raptors and I was interested in their decision to get Darko Rajaković as the head coach. I have a fantastic relationship with him, we talk a lot. They think that with a young coach, it will be much easier to develop young players. They believe that it will be much easier than with Scariolo, who strives for results. Do you think it is possible in the Euroleague and that the result is not the primary thing? I think not, everyone wants at least a place in the top eight”.