This column appears on the Latest Basketball News website. It was published on April 4, 2021.

By Ed Odeven

For Zeljko Obradovic, there isn’t a discernible distinction between winning and breathing. Both acts are intrinsically connected. What’s more, they define his coaching career.

He’s been called the greatest European coach. He’s been labeled the best basketball bench boss not working in the NBA.

Since the early 1990s, Zeljko Obradovic’s track record of success is astonishing, including nine EuroLeague titles with five different clubs, a record 18 trips to the EuroLeague Final Four and 14 EuroLeague final appearances.

The 61-year-old Serbian, who’s been on a coaching sabbatical since leaving Turkish club Fenerbache last spring, has nothing left to prove. He will always be known as one of the greatest basketball coaches of all time.

Clearly, his legacy is safe.

However, a few questions remain: Which team will hire Obradovic next? How long does he wanted to keep coaching? And will he ever be hired to lead an NBA team?

An NBA future for Zeljko Obradovic?

When Obradovic announced his departure from Fenerbahce after seven seasons, he said he would take a year off before returning to coaching.

The clock is ticking, but the Serbian should resurface somewhere within the next few weeks or months.

The odds of Obradovic leaving Europe to coach in the NBA decrease with each passing year. But he spelled out his ambitions to coach in the NBA many years ago.

Popovich praises Obradovic

But there’s no question his coaching acumen and keen understanding of the modern NBA game are complementary skills.

Just ask Gregg Popovich.

The longtime San Antonio Spurs coach gave Zeljko Obradovic perhaps the best compliment he ever received. Popovich admitted years ago he’s “stealing plays” from the Serbian tactician.

In other words, Popovich, who has led the Spurs to five NBA titles, recognizes the value of replicating Obradovic’s methods on the basketball court achieve.

“Coach Obradovic may be the best coach in Europe at this stage and one of the best in the world,” Popovich said in October 2007. “He could easily be over here coaching an NBA team, in my opinion. I can’t wait to watch the films and see some of the things they run because he does a lot of good things.”

A great basketball mind

Former Fenerbahce player Derrick Williams noted earlier this year that Obradovic’s basketball IQ is off the charts.

“He’s an excellent coach,” Williams said. “He knows everything about basketball, he’s probably the smartest person I’ve ever met.

“There are only two people who for me are at that level of knowing everything about the game, LeBron James and Zeljko Obradovic. They know everything about the other team, they know everything about all the players on our team. Having a coach like that makes you want to work a lot harder, so I give him a lot of credit.”

It’s been suggested that top hoop strategists survey the court and concoct plans like a chessmaster in real time.

Obradovic delivered a different explanation a few years ago.

“Yes, there’s some parallel to chess, but also a difference,” he remarked in 2011. “In chess you play and you decide, while in basketball it’s the players who have to materialize your ideas on court. They are more important.”

***

Read the full column here: Zeljko Obradovic awaits next coaching challenge – Latest Basketball News