Remembering Dejan Milojević A Legacy of Inspiration and Triumph in Basketball
Golden State Warriors’ assistant coach Dejan Milojević, renowned for mentoring two-time NBA MVP Nikola Jokic and celebrated for his basketball achievements in Serbia, tragically passed away at the age of 46. His sudden demise occurred in Salt Lake City, Utah, following a heart attack. Milojević had been urgently hospitalized after experiencing a medical crisis during a team dinner on Tuesday night. This unfortunate event transpired just before the Warriors were due to face the Utah Jazz, leading to the NBA postponing the Wednesday night game.
The Warriors community, including head coach Steve Kerr, expressed profound shock and sorrow at Milojević’s unexpected passing. Kerr, in an official statement, conveyed the team’s immense grief and described the loss as a devastating and tragic event for everyone associated with the Warriors. He also acknowledged the deep impact Milojević had on his family, friends, and colleagues.
The basketball world rapidly responded to this tragic news with an extensive outpouring of sympathy. Before NBA games on Wednesday, moments of silence were observed in honor of Milojević. Erik Spoelstra, the Miami Heat coach, termed the news as “horrific.” San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich praised Milojević’s coaching abilities. In a poignant reflection of the loss, Atlanta Hawks’ Serbian forward Bogdan Bogdanovic was too distressed to comment, visibly affected by the news.
Golden State Warriors rookie Brandin Podziemski paid a heartfelt tribute to Milojević on social media, expressing how Milojević had profoundly impacted his life, even in a brief period. He remembered Milojević’s advice to smile and cherished the joy and laughter he brought, hoping for his spirit to continue shining down from heaven.
A Legacy of Coaching Excellence and Global Impact in Basketball
Dejan Milojević, an esteemed assistant coach for the Golden State Warriors, tragically passed away during his third season with the team. Prior to joining the Warriors, Milojević had a rich coaching career in Europe, particularly in Serbia and Montenegro, and he also served as an assistant coach for the Serbian national team, collaborating with Igor Koskoskov, now an assistant with the Atlanta Hawks.
Milojević’s coaching journey was remarkable, especially noted for his work with Nikola Jokić in Serbia, before Jokić’s ascent to stardom with the Denver Nuggets in the United States. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver expressed deep sorrow over Milojević’s untimely death, recognizing him as a cherished member of the global basketball community. Silver highlighted Milojević’s significant achievements, including his pivotal role in the Warriors’ 2022 NBA Championship win during his first season and his impactful mentoring of some of the world’s premier basketball players.
Beyond his NBA contributions, Milojević was renowned for his coaching stint in Europe, where he notably developed talents like Nikola Jokić, Ivica Zubac of the Los Angeles Clippers, Goga Bitadze of the Orlando Magic, and Boban Marjanović of the Houston Rockets. His expertise was not limited to nurturing international players; with the Warriors, he was instrumental in refining the skills of centers like Kevon Looney, who praised Milojević for his meticulous approach and dedication to player development.
Tributes and Remembrances from the Basketball Community
“Steve Kerr, the head coach of the Golden State Warriors, recounted his journey of discovering Dejan Milojević, a highly regarded basketball figure. This introduction was facilitated by Kent Lacob, the son of Joe Lacob, the Warriors’ owner. Kerr’s interest in Milojević was piqued during a period of staffing changes within the Warriors’ organization in 2021, leading him to actively pursue Milojević for a role on the team. Despite some initial reluctance, Milojević was eventually persuaded to accept Kerr’s offer, a decision that delighted the head coach.
Kerr, in a Warriors-produced video last year, expressed his admiration for Milojević, noting both his pleasant personality and his impressive background in basketball as both a player and a coach. He felt Milojević, often referred to as ‘Deki’, was an ideal addition to the team.
As a player, Milojević achieved remarkable success in the Adriatic League, winning three MVP awards consecutively in 2004, 2005, and 2006. Standing 6 feet 7 inches tall and weighing 240 pounds, he was a formidable power forward. His legendary status is further cemented by stories from his youth, such as scoring an astonishing 141 points in a game at just 14 years old, with 83 points scored in the second half alone on his coach’s instruction.
Milojević’s coaching philosophy, as he shared in a 2018 interview with Bosnian radio-television outlet RTV, emphasized the importance of passion for the game. He believed that enduring the rigors of basketball for a long period requires a deep love for the sport.
Before joining the Warriors, Milojević had accumulated NBA experience through summer league assistant coach roles with the Atlanta Hawks, San Antonio Spurs, and Houston Rockets.
His sudden passing was a shock to many in the basketball community. Darko Rajaković, the Toronto Raptors’ coach, remembered Milojević as a role model in various aspects of life, including basketball, and spoke highly of the respect he had for him. Mike Brown, a former Golden State assistant and the current head coach of the Sacramento Kings, praised Milojević’s talents and character.
The unexpected news led to the postponement of a game between the Warriors and the Utah Jazz, with a reschedule date yet to be announced. The Jazz stated that tickets for the original game date would be valid for the rescheduled game. The Warriors’ next game was set to be at home against the Dallas Mavericks.
Milojević’s death left behind his wife, Natasa, and their children, Nikola and Masa. Steve Kerr expressed his deep sympathy for their immense loss.