Golden State Warriors assistant coach Dejan Milojevic was remembered around the NBA as a warm friend and influential mentor after his death on Wednesday at the age of 46.
The Serbian coach had suffered a heart attack at a team dinner in Salt Lake City on Tuesday night and died on Wednesday morning, the Warriors said.
Milojevic, who played in Spain and Turkey as well as his homeland, where he began his coaching career, joined the Warriors as an assistant in 2021.
He was part of the staff on the team that won the NBA championship in 2022.
The Warriors said that “despite life saving efforts” he passed away in Utah, where the Warriors’ Wednesday game against the Jazz was postponed.
“We are absolutely devastated by Dejan’s sudden passing,” said Warriors Head Coach Steve Kerr.
“This is a shocking and tragic blow for everyone associated with the Warriors and an incredibly difficult time for his family, friends, and all of us who had the incredible pleasure to work with him.
“In addition to being a terrific basketball coach, Dejan was one of the most positive and beautiful human beings I have ever known, someone who brought joy and light to every single day with his passion and energy.
“We grieve with and for his wife, Natasa, and their children, Nikola and Masa. Their loss is unfathomable.”
Teams around the league paid tribute to “Deki” with a moment of silence before Wednesday’s games.
Toronto Raptors’ Serbian head coach Darko Rajakovic said Milojevic had been a major influence on him and many others.
“I knew Dejan since I was a teenager. He was a role model as a player, as a man, as a husband, as a coach,” he told reporters.
Milojevic had been an assistant coach for the Serbian national team and worked during his time in Europe with a number of future NBA stars, including compatriot Nikola Jokic, the two-time NBA Most Valuable Player who led the Denver Nuggets to the NBA title last year.
Dreams and goals –
“A lot of NBA players went through his hands and his influence. He helped a lot of guys to make the next step in their career,” said Rajakovic.
“Last time we were together, he was talking about… his dream of one day being a head coach of Serbia national team.
“We were talking about plans and all of that. Unfortunately, he’s not with us anymore to share dreams and goals,” added the Toronto coach.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver said Milojevic was “a beloved colleague and dear friend to so many in the global basketball community.”
Players paid tribute on social media, with Karl-Anthony Towns calling Milojevic’s death a “terrible loss for the NBA community” as Warriors rookie Brandin Podziemski offered a farewell to a friend.
“You changed my life in such a short time,” Podziemski wrote in a post on social media. “The most important thing you ever told me was to just smile! Your joy and laughs will forever be missed.”
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