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Detroit Pistons courting European coach Zeljko Obradovic?

Meet Zeljko Obradovic.

Not to be confused with former Pistons’ center Zeljko Rebraca, Obradovic is arguably the most intriguing candidate to be mentioned for Detroit’s vacant head-coaching position.

But who is Zelly (that’s what I’ve already decided I’ll call him) Obradovic, you ask?

Euroleague.net has the background:

The winningest coach in Euroleague history is none other than Zeljko Obradovic. A World champion as a player in 1990, Obradovic led Partizan to its only Euroleague title in 1992, downing Joventut in the final. He compensated Joventut’s fans by leading them to the 1994 Euroleague title, the only crown in club history. Obradovic then joined Real Madrid and won his third Euroleague title in 1995. He also won Saporta Cup titles with Madrid in 1997 and Benetton in 1999 before joining Panathinaikos. In his 10 seasons with the Greens, Obradovic has won nine Greek league crowns, five Greek Cups and four Euroleague titles in 2000, 2002, 2007 and 2009. Obradovic also captured gold at EuroBasket 1997 and the 1998 World Championship with Yugoslavia

He’s the Red Aurebach or Phil Jackson of Europe. If we blindly judged coaches on “ringz” like some do players, he’d be an absolutely obvious pick for the job in Detroit.

There is a catch, though.

We know very little about him. Yes, he’s got the resume, but his style of play is still somewhat ambiguous and, unless you are fluent in reading Spanish, his intentions with an NBA team are somewhat confusing — potentially because the Google Translation of this Spanish article is tough to understand.

El Contraataque has nearly all details regarding Obradovic and the Pistons:

The contract would be set at a figure close to $ 4 million this season. Amount charged similar to his predecessor Lawrence Frank in Detroit. Obradovic want a computer in order to compete effectively and get to play offs. Detroit has more than enough cap room since they only have committed for next season of $ 30 million.

But this excerpt from the same post may be the most interesting part of the entire idea:

Coach Zeljko Obradovic wants to be assuming functions to propose a signature basketball, similar to that practiced Greg Popovich in San Antonio Spurs but with the virtues that characterize the former coach of Panathinaikos.

Popovich has a lot of pull in the Spurs organization — especially after once serving as the team’s GM before successfully appointing himself as head coach — and from the way that sounds, it may feel like Obradovic wants in on Dumars’ personnel decisions.

With as big of a summer as this is for the Pistons, that would mean putting your hope into the hands of a currently not-so-well-thought-of Dumars and a coach with zero experience as any sort of coach in the NBA.

It’s a boom-or-bust idea, but that might be what this team needs. You can only pluck the wrong up-and-coming assistant or retread coach so many times before you need to hit it big, again.

Dumars has endured three bad hires after three good coach. Maybe the ultimate off-the wall-pick – Obradovic wasn’t even considered for our list of 23 potential Pistons coaches – would get Dumars back into the win column.

According to team writer Keith Langlois (hat tip: Matt Watson of Detroit Bad Boys), Obradovic has been around the Pistons during training camp and preseason, just observing. Perhaps he likes what he sees with the roster.

Who knows whether this rumor has legs or is the product of a media environment much different from our own? According to the Spanish article, Obradovic is one of the final two candidates along with “an American coach.”

Either way, it’s certainly an interesting idea.


  • Apr 22, 20134:16 pm
    by tarsier


    I’m intrigued. But it would be an issue to have a coach who struggles with English.

  • Apr 22, 20134:18 pm
    by Mark


    Based on McMillan’s name seeming to come up the most among “American” candidates, I’m going to guess the search may be down to Obradovic and McMillan, if that report is true.

    And if so…

    Obradovic >>>>>> McMillan 

    All Day.

    McMillan may be a solid coach, but does he have greatness in him? I don’t see it. And unless they want to just find someone to get them back into the playoffs, and then have to hire someone else again in 2 yrs to succeed in the playoffs, McMillan doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.

    On the other side, Obradovic has proven he has greatness in him. Either it will translate to the NBA or it won’t. But at least you know its in him. And being what could be Joe’s last hire, why not go out with a bang?

    Either Obradovic succeeds and Joe looks like a genius. Or it fails and he gets fired.

    If you hire McMillan, he will maybe have a successful regular season and get us into the playoffs. But then when he can’t get us out of the 1st round after 2 yrs, and Joe needs to make another coaching change to get us over the hump, Joe will get fired himself anyways for needing to fire another coach after 2 yrs.

    Might as well go with the guy who has the best chance of leading us to a championship one day, and won’t need to hire someone else to get us over the hump. If you compare resumes, even if neither has won an NBA championship, its easy to see Obradovic is the most likely of the two to succeed in winning big in the NBA.

    I really like this idea. 

  • Apr 22, 20134:21 pm
    by MrCarter



  • Apr 22, 20134:22 pm
    by Thiago


    I really like the idea too.

    The styles are different. But if the europlayers can succeed, the eurocoach can too.

    And here the most important thing: the guy is a winner. He knows basketball.


    • Apr 22, 20134:24 pm
      by Thiago


      And also, I bet he speaks english better than a lot of players.

      The whole world, aside from the americans, learns how to speak more than 1 language, like myself.

      I woudn’t worry about this. 

      • Apr 22, 20134:54 pm
        by G


        I bet my Spanish is better than your English.

        • Apr 22, 20134:57 pm
          by Thiago


          Spanish is not my native language. But I speak that too…


          • Apr 22, 20135:03 pm
            by G

            I was assuming your native language is Portuguese. Just taking exception to your statement that the whole world aside from us learn multiple languages.

          • Apr 22, 20135:46 pm
            by oats

            His English is much better than some American’s English. I know that isn’t saying much, nor does it disprove G’s point. There are quite a few bilingual or multilingual Americans, but it isn’t like the idea is all that far off. I for one am a unilingual American, and it doesn’t seem like that’s particularly rare.

          • Apr 23, 20138:11 am
            by G

            I’ve been in a lot of places and met plenty of people who weren’t American that only spoke one language. That said, I’ll admit it’s more likely someone from another country will speak multiple languages, maybe 3, 4 or 5. I once roomed with a guy who was Belgian-Congolese that spoke English & French very well, Dutch and Spanish less well, and probably Flemish to some extent.

        • Apr 22, 20135:04 pm
          by Victor


          If Calderon is still running the show next season, I think Zelly makes even more sense.  

  • Apr 22, 20134:24 pm
    by mixmasta


    Želimir “Željko” Obradovi? is one decorated coach and a former player himself.
    I have to admit that I like the idea. But how would Free Agents react to this? Would it entice them, discourage or does not matter?

    • Apr 22, 20134:33 pm
      by Mark


      Compared to the alternatives – Sampson, McMillan, Fizdale, etc, I really don’t think any of them would be attracting any FAs here either.
      I personally think Obradovic would entice more than discourage, but from what I’ve read it seems the Pistons may be going more of the trade route than FA signings anyways, using the capspace to absorb other teams contracts in trades. So may not even matter.

      One more thing on Obradovic though, I believe he has high praise from Popovich, who all players around the league respect. Bottom line, I think when you do something bold, which this would be, its more likely to attract external interest, than if you just go the safe route with a retread or assistant. Hiring Obradovic would at least get ppl around the league (and world) talking about the Pistons again, and that’s the first step in attracting FAs.

      • Apr 22, 20135:08 pm
        by mixmasta


        I think I agree with you here. This may even expand the Pistons Fan Base. Win-win situation so far.

        • Apr 22, 20135:12 pm
          by G


          Sorry, Rodman’s already doing that in North Korea. 

          • Apr 22, 20136:40 pm
            by jinzzy


          • Apr 22, 20137:01 pm
            by mixmasta

            Sad but true.
            I am a Piston fan based in The Philippines and most NBA fans here cheer for Miami because Coach Spoelstra is half Filipino.
            Might be the same effect with Obradovic.

  • Apr 22, 20134:27 pm
    by France


    European coaches are underrated. Obradovic is a genius, like Popovich in the NBA if you know what I mean. Dumars and the Pistons could make a big step forward if they sign Obradovic.

  • Apr 22, 20134:33 pm
    by MIKEYDE248


    We would just have to hope this isn’t Darko all over as a coach.

    Language will be the key component here, if the players can’t understand him, there is no need to even bother.  Along with the completely different styles of play from the Euro play to the NBA.

  • Apr 22, 20134:41 pm
    by Thiago


    Do it, Joe!

  • Apr 22, 20134:44 pm
    by G


    My concerns about this guy would be the same as the ones I have about bringing in a guy like Izzo. Great basketball mind, but NBA players are a different animal. Everybody in the NBA who’s played in Europe says the coach’s word is law there. 

  • Apr 22, 20134:51 pm
    by Clyde


    English (the language) doesn’t appear as though it will be a problem for him.


    • Apr 22, 20134:55 pm
      by Thiago


      See…. like I said.

    • Apr 22, 20134:56 pm
      by Cliff


      i hope he’s actually a bit more charismatic/ upbeat when he coaches… but otherwise, i like what i’m seeing!

      • Apr 24, 20138:35 am
        by Vorka


        Believe me, he is :-)

  • Apr 22, 20135:39 pm
    by george21gs


    he is a coach that loves   defence ,and he have a lot of experience,his team use “slow tempo”,and in panathinaikos he used a lot the pick and roll.Of course the language will be no problem for him.
    The  problem that i can see is the difference between tha philoshopy of basketball  in europe, where coach have full controll of the team(trades for example) ,and full control of the locket room where coach is above any player,and thats why in 10 years that he(obradovic) was in panathinaikos he had some problems with players that had come from usa.

    sorry for my english.

    • Apr 22, 20135:56 pm
      by Mark


      I don’t think that would be a problem for this team though. When you look at our core guys right now – Monroe, Drummond, Knight, Singler, Middleton. 

      No egos at all. None whatsoever. All very coachable guys and hard workers.

      Plus, he was already here during training camp, so there is a familiarity there for both sides. If he didn’t think he could coach these players, he wouldn’t be interested.

      The only guy who could be problematic is Stuckey, but I’ve read that he is likely to be gone before next year, either through trade or just bought out.


      • Apr 22, 20136:00 pm
        by Mark


        As for giving him some player personnel control, that’s not a bad thing. He knows whats best for his system more so than Joe. IIRC, Larry Brown had a lot of input into roster decisions when he was here. 

        I think if you want your coach to succeed, you have to let them be involved in the roster decisions. Otherwise you are just forcing players on them, who may or may not fit. That’s kinda what has been going on here the last 5 yrs. Joe gets his guys and then forces a coach to make it work, and when it doesn’t he gets another coach, and so on. Makes more sense to just let the coach pick who he wants to begin with.

  • Apr 22, 20135:41 pm
    by George


    He seems more upbeat in this interview (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IXC7S4nbLm4).

    He kinda gives off a European Popovich vibe, in that he answers questions sorta matter of fact-ly and to the point.  He seems like a guy who will command respect from all the video footage out on him.

    I am not exactly sure how much we can trust him to have Popovich-type power roster building-wise though?  I know this would never happen, but I am sure a guy like P-Jax would consider coaching us if we gave him full control of roster moves.  I always thought of him as being a bit overrated as a coach, but he is a master at working egos and getting guys to buy into a system.

    • Apr 22, 20136:58 pm
      by Venice


      This is where you are wrong. Ill rather have coach Pop that P-Jax because theres no ego here. We dont have any superstars that have a big ego.a coach Pop is better suited for us than P-JAx

  • Apr 22, 20136:20 pm
    by T Casey


    Idk, he sounds better than any of our recent coaches. I still wish we’d go for a more obviously nba ready coach though.

  • Apr 22, 20136:45 pm
    by omar


    Why not check if Hakeem would be interested in coaching?

    • Apr 22, 20136:49 pm
      by mixmasta


      If you mean a coaching spot for big men, then yes. Head coach? No.

  • Apr 22, 20136:48 pm
    by Lorenzo


    I am familiar with him–and as alluded to by a number of people on here–I think the big issue will be the differing basketball cultures in the two continents. And I don’t really mean the X’s and O’s, clearly he knows what he is doing in regards to that, but of player influence and reproach in the association. In Europe he would be the iron hand and players would fall in line without question, the “diva” attitudes that permeates the player culture in North America is simply not there; the game is actually treated as a team sport, by players and coaches alike. Player politics has gotten coaches with career equity like Jerry Sloan, Larry Brown, and even Phil Jackson in predicaments that even left them scythed. It would be an interesting experiment but I would question it’s potential for success, even with this squad.

  • Apr 22, 20137:23 pm
    by Ryan Kelly


    Jerry Sloan is my number one hands down.  After that.  It’s a mixed bag and throw zelly in there too.   But sloan should be target number 1.  

  • Apr 22, 201310:25 pm


    Too many of us agree, so it won’t happen

    Out next coach will be Lindsey Hunter 

    • Apr 22, 201311:17 pm
      by Vince


      Hahahaha yeah you’re probably right.


  • Apr 22, 201310:32 pm
    by domnick


    i dont know what style does this euro coach implement but… the thing is… euroleague is not same as NBA…

    they play the same sport… but different styles… slower and more shooters… we dont have them right now… so we need to get them here so that his style will work…

    • Apr 22, 201311:20 pm
      by Vince


      In the end, does a different style really change anything? If Zelly can bring in a new aspect of coaching and maybe renew what we thought of basketball and make it work then let it happen. This dude has a ton of rings, championship experience and has shown he can win, thats enough for me.

  • Apr 22, 201311:34 pm
    by Alek


    He is really exceptional. Sharp and proven winer. I can guarantee that will bring the team to playoff even with the current rooster. Also I truly believe that he will bring Vlade Divac as a help. They played together on Partizan championship team. He was the mastermind as a player and as a coach.

  • Apr 22, 201311:57 pm
    by Travis


    Interesting pic with Dumars and Zeljko. I believe the other one is Zeljko’s assistant


  • Apr 23, 201312:00 am
    by gmehl


    News flash: Nate McMillan is now the leading coaching candidate for the Pistons.

    • Apr 23, 201312:15 am
      by Mark


      That would be a travesty if true.

      Lets see…European Phil Jackson…or American Borat…who do you choose Joe?

      Joe: Give me the American Borat! I’ll take McMillan!

      Typical Dumars hire. Here I thought Joe was finally thinking outside the box again, like he did way back in 2003 firing Carlisle for Brown. Hiring Obradovic would be that kind of move again. Hiring McMillan would be like hiring Frank again. 

      • Apr 23, 201312:32 am
        by oats


        I can’t disagree with this more. McMillan has been a really good coach. There’s a reason he was an assistant coach for the Olympic team, it’s because the guy can really coach. McMillan’s one of the 3 top guys on my wishlist, and I’d be really happy with him as the next Pistons coach.

      • Apr 23, 20131:22 am
        by gmehl


        @Mark The story indicates that McMillan is in the lead for the job but it doesn’t mean that he has the job tied up. I am sure things like money demands, personell decision say will all play a factor in who gets the job. I really want McMillan but the other guy who I know little about intrigues me as well. The main thing is that Joe gets a guy that can move the team forward and grow with them. I must say though that I penciled in McMillan as soon as Frank was fired.

      • Apr 23, 20138:15 am
        by G


        McMillan would be the safest hire in my opinion. The least imaginative (Budenholzer or Obradovic would be the most imaginative), but I don’t hate it.

  • Apr 23, 20131:29 am
    by Big Rick


    Yeah, really don’t see the off-base comparison of McMillan to Frank. I’m willing to bet my next paycheck that at least 75% of the posters on here never thought twice about the “European Phil Jackson” til today, probably never even heard of him. If we really do get Nate, maybe we can get back to playing some real defense instead of just talking about it. 

    • Apr 23, 20137:20 am
      by gmehl


      “maybe we can get back to playing some real defense instead of just talking about it”

      Big Rick nail it with this comment. When your a team that lacks talent then the only way to get better apart from getting better players (which is obvious) is to start on the defensive end. Nate McMillan will bring that as a head coach.

  • Apr 23, 20135:02 am
    by Jack


    He’s a convicted felon. He won’t get a work permit in the USA.

    • Apr 23, 20138:18 am
      by G


      He can still get a work permit if he’s a convicted felon. He could become a legal permanent resident if he were so inclined. There would be more paperwork, but that’s it.

    • Apr 23, 20138:20 am
      by G


      He killed a guy in a car accident. If he were convicted of rape, 1st degree murder, armed robbery or something like that, no way. But for manslaughter? They wouldn’t keep him out for that.

  • Apr 23, 201312:16 pm
    by Kevin


    What a joke.  Hiring this guy will NEVER happen.  Who wants to bring in a European coach.  NBA coaches must know the ins and outs of the NBA, and also other players on opposing teams…and also speak clear english.  This will not happen.  He is not on the radar.  Forget about it.  It’s all about home grown talent when it comes to NBA coaches.  Sure, players can come from anywhere around the globe.  But not coaches.

    • Apr 23, 20135:42 pm
      by oats


      That seems to be an awfully short sighted view. Are you suggesting he can’t learn the NBA game, or that he can’t hire someone to do a lot of the scouting for him? Heck, the NBA is available worldwide. Do you really know for a fact that he hasn’t been watching the NBA game a great deal? I’m betting a fair amount Euro coaches watch a decent amount of NBA games and know a fair amount about the roster strengths and weaknesses of NBA teams, as well as strengths and weaknesses of individual players. It’s only a matter of time before a foreign coach makes the leap. D’Antoni already helped bridge that gap. Yeah, D’Antoni is an American and already knew the NBA, but that is the first step towards getting a foreign born NBA coach. It’ll happen eventually, a coach will make the leap. I don’t know if it will be the first one or not, but eventually a coach will come over and be successful. There’s just too many smart basketball guys worldwide for that not to happen eventually.
      If I had to guess, I’d say we’re still a few years away from someone doing it and this guy won’t be the one to do it. I also think it is most likely that the first guy to do it will come over as a lead assistant for a couple years before getting the head coaching job, so I agree this guy is a long shot right now. It seems reasonable to think this guy is at least on the radar even if some of the stuff in the article seems crazy. For example, the idea that he is already one of two finalists in a search that is barely getting started seems hard to believe. I think that part is bogus, but I suspect there is some plausibility to him being considered as an outside the box option.
      Your argument isn’t that unlike the argument for why Euros would never succeed as players. They won’t be able to adjust to the more physical style of play. They won’t understand American systems. The won’t be able to communicate effectively with team mates or coaches. That was obviously nonsense. I think you are almost certainly wrong in your assertion that NBA coaches have to be home grown. Unfortunately it will likely take too long for me to be proven correct for this argument to be remembered by either of us.

  • Apr 24, 20131:35 pm
    by Gary


    Sounds too good to be true, yet really intriguing. I hope Joe D makes this move it would be great. And as for free agents willing to come to Detroit; they would have to be intrigued by what he’s done in Europe and some would probably want to be apart of this experiment just to make sure it works. Not to mention any foreign player would have to be willing to come to Detroit and this might just smooth things over with Jerebko if he is someone worth keeping. This would be a great thing for the Pistons.

  • Apr 24, 20138:16 pm
    by Bongstradamus


    Hey Pistons fans, long time Clipper fan over here thinking about coaches and saw the Obradovic story.
    First off, mad respect for you guys.  Don’t be discouraged.  You guys are just in a transition right now.  It wont last 22 years.  (I have some experience with discouraging seasons)  Just keep the faith.
    Second, Trust in Joe.  Frank didn’t work out, but ya can’t fault Joe for that.  Larry Frank is a bright guy and if he did work out, could have been the long term coach that grew with the team.  Joe did draft Monroe though, and the gutsy hardworking Brandon Knight, and Andre Drummond.  Joe’s got a great eye for talent.
    Thirdly, Zeljko Obradovic is legit.  He’s no guru though, so you cant compare him to Phil Jackson.  He is not a player’s coach, even though he was a player.  Obradovic is a religion.  You practice Obradovic when you play for him.  You become an Obradovic-ite and if you sin, you sit until you repent.
    The guy is a genius.  And if you go in on him, you go all in.  You make him a Jerry Sloan-in-Utah level Messiah.  He is not for the weak at heart.  Primadonnas need not apply.  You submit or you get shipped.  That being said:  he wins.  At all levels.  He is the Jedi Master of coaching and the NBA has been denied his brilliance for far too long.  It would be a significant coup to grab this guy before NJ or LA takes a look.  He makes Phil Jackson look like Dr. Phil.

  • May 3, 20135:54 pm
    by Manos


    In his 10 seasons with Panathinaikos Athens, Obradovic has won nine Greek league crowns, five Greek Cups and five (not four as stated above) Euroleague titles in 2000, 2002, 2007 and 2009. You forget 2011 in Barcelona where Panathinaikos beat Barcelona Basketball Club in their home! In Athens used to call him “Zots”. He gets 200% out of his players, also he and Itoudis create an amazing team atmosphere. Fans really adore him. You should know that Panathinaikos fans are very demanding in every aspect. He is a highly respected person all over Greece among every club. You lucky people in Detroit are  getting a deal with NBA championship this summer. Wish you the best, Zots!

  • May 25, 20135:53 pm
    by nicolas


    Obradovic is a brilliant tactician . He is master at pick’n'roll offence . If a player sets aside his ego , he will be tremendously developed in defence and offence .
    Watch this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=48_HckET5m4 A few months later panathinaikos won the greek championship , the greek cup and of course the euroleague cup ( all 3 trophies available )
    Zelico is strict and he is a winner . He builds the player’s character into champions .

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