Obradovic: «Coach Ivkovic told me not to sign to Partizan, but at the end the decision is mine»
What was your biggest fear as a rookie coach?
«Fear is not the right word. Fear is not the feeling I felt at that moment… What bothered me more than anyone else that first year was to have the answer to every question any of my players could ask! Like now, after 30 years things are very easy for me. I wanted to have the answer to every question. If I did not have the right answer, it would be very difficult for me to be respected! I try to prepare myself to have the right answer. Every moment. Of course, the help from Professor Nikolic was huge at that time. I spent two years by his side and I have no doubt that I made the right decision after my first year at Partizan where we won everything, when I decided to stay another year while I had proposals. Because I would have the opportunity to work with Aca Nikolic again. It was one of the best decisions of my life! I continued to improve. I believe that every day is an opportunity to improve. I'm getting better even now, at 61! I talk to my assistants, to people who love basketball, to people who have been in the club for many years. Every piece of information I receive is useful».
They say that some moments determine our course. Have you thought that history would have been written differently if Sasha Djordjevic had not scored that three-pointer in Istanbul?
«I don’t know… All this talk is hypothetical. The truth is that Sasha's shot helped us all in our careers. You know something; It is very easy to say such a thing and draw conclusions. Everyone is talking about that shot. But basketball is something else. He scored that basket and we won. We had a great game. It was the youngest team in the history of basketball to win the Euroleague, the Champions Cup back then. It was easy for us to have won the game earlier and be European Champions. Everyone is talking about that shot. But if you look at Jofresa's basket again before Djordjevic's three-pointer… It was a very difficult basket. We said before about fate. Sasha deserved that shot. This was the big dream of all Serbian players. Run all over the field, get the last shot and score at the last second! Without a doubt, that shot changed our lives. But as I explained to you, I think we could have won the game much earlier».
In the end, coach, do we make our destiny or do we find it ready?
«I don’t know… Many people believe in destiny, fate or whatever you want to say it. What I believe is that there are times when we have to make important decisions. To decide on our future, on our life, on what we really want to do. There, then, you must be ready. In my case, I had already decided. It all has to do with emotion. Once I make a decision, I won’t go into the process of thinking about what would would happen if I had taken a different path. You decide and you live with your choices. You make a decision and you live with it! You support it and you have to get your idea to the end. It is important to feel good, to be happy. I believe that happiness is the most important thing in life. Together, of course with health ».
Last week, Dusan Ivkovic made some statements, stressing, among other things, that "I explained to Zeljko that his decision to go to Partizan was a big risk." After all, why not listen to your best man?
«Everyone knows my relationship with Duda. He is a person I admire a lot, we have family ties and I always listen to him. We discussed it. But at the end of the day, the decision is mine. I tried to explain to him so that he would understand my motivation and why I came back. People keep asking… Some people say that I will be lost with my decision. My question is what do I have to lose? Tell me… What do I have to lose now? I only know one thing. That I will try everything, that I will give what I have inside and I will ask my players to do the same to succeed. If that's not enough, tell me. What can I do; I will get along well with myself because I will know that I tried to do everything. You have good and bad moments in life. So far, talking about my professional life, I have lived many beautiful moments. But there were also obstacles. It is a part of life. What happens today is just a thing of the past. You have to think about what you have in front of you. That's the only way I think».
So do you think that this return to Partizan, is the answer to those who say that Zeljko Obradovic always works with big budgets?
«I will give you an example ... I was the coach of Partizan and in my first year, we won all three titles. We won the championship, the cup in Yugoslavia and the Champions Cup. At some point, the team found some to give some bonuses. I insisted that my players and associates have to be paid first. I told them, "When you have more money, you will give it to me." The second year has come. The financial situation was a disaster. I worked for zero! Zero! I got zero euros all year! Zero dinars! And I never got any bonuses! This was exactly the situation in my second year at Partizan. And now I have to get into the process of answering those who say I work for money, that what matters to me are budgets and contracts? Do I have to answer anything to them? The next year I went to Badalona. If you look at the budget of Badalona in relation to other teams, you will understand. Then I went to Treviso. Real Madrid, Panathinaikos and Fenerbahce. People will always be by your side or try to blame you for something. I know what the truth is and most importantly, how I feel. On the other hand, after 30 years of doing this job and all that I have achieved, I think now I have the right to decide on my life. Where I am going to work. Is not that right; On the day of the presentation I said that the reason I returned to Partizan is deep inside me! Because I love this team. It all starts with that».
What is your biggest dream now?
«All of us who are in the organization of Partizan, understand that something very important is happening. There is a very positive atmosphere. The Adriatic League this year will probably be the best in recent years. With so many good teams. My dream for Partizan is to see our fans on the stands again. This will mean that we will get rid of the coronavirus. This is my first wish. If done, all my other wishes will be easier to make. We have goals ahead of us. I don’t know if it makes sense to repeat them. I said it in my presentation. I want to bring Partizan to the position it deserves to be. To play in the EuroLeague. This is my vision. To have a good year, to work hard, to have the support of the fans, to respect whoever we have as our opponent. Most of all, let's enjoy basketball».
What advice would you give to young Zeljko Obradovic? If you had the opportunity to write a letter to your younger self…
«This is a philosophy. First of all, I'm not the same person I was, 30-40 years ago. You asked me earlier, that I was in my 30s. I explained to you that I was different, for sure. Every day we change, every day we try to become better people. This is the most important thing. Maybe one thing I would change is not to react so much to some situations. Do not react so quickly. To be calmer sometimes. You know, in these cases, experience helps. Now I am calmer. "Maybe that would be the advice».
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