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Basketball world mourns Warriors assistant Dejan Milojević

Tributes poured in for the departed Warriors assistant, beloved all over the world

Detroit Pistons v Golden State Warriors Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images

In just two-and-a-half years, assistant coach Dejan Milojević had a huge impact on the Golden State Warriors. His impact on the world of basketball was even bigger.

Milojević suffered a fatal heart attack at a dinner with Warriors players and coaches at a Salt Lake City restaurant Tuesday night. But the coach, who joined the Warriors ahead of the 2021-22 championship season, left a lasting legacy in both the NBA and the world of European basketball, as the flood of tributes to Milojević today showed.

Commissioner Adam Silver called Milojević “a beloved colleague and dear friend to so many in the basketball community,” and offered condolences to Milojević’s wife, Natasa, and his two children, Nikola and Masa.

Warriors coach Steve Kerr described himself as “absolutely devastated” by Milojević’s passing, as was everyone who had the “incredible pleasure” of working with him.

“In addition to being a terrific basketball coach,” Kerr said in a statement, “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.”

Milojević was known for his mentorship of young players, ranging from Kevon Looney, who had a breakthrough season in Dejan’s first season with the club, to rookies like Brandin Podziemski, who said Milojević “changed my life.”

Milojević began his playing career as a power forward in Serbia, winning MVP of the Adriatic League three years in a row, and winning a gold medal at EuroBasket in 2001. Three years after his retirement in 2009, he became the head coach of Mega Vizura, a team in his native Belgrade. Not only did he win a title, but he coached numerous future NBA players, including Nikola Jokic, Vlatko Cancar, and Ivica Zubac.

Using Milojević’s nickname, “Deki” or “Decky,” Zubac wrote “Rest in peace, Deki my friend,” and posted photos of the two of them together, along with Warriors big man Dario Saric.

Bogdan Bogdanovic also posted about the departed coach, writing “Pocivaj u miru Deki ,” which means “Rest in peace Deki.”

Toronto Raptors coach Darko Rajakovic, a fellow Serbian, reminisced about his friendship with Milojević and about all the players he helped over the years - plus his dream of one day coaching the Serbian national team.

Media members also loved Milojević. John Hollinger explained that one reason was he always took care of anyone who visited Serbia to scout players.

Warriors media also paid tribute to Milojević, citing how beloved he was throughout the organization and how much everyone enjoyed his humor and upbeat attitude.

Kerith Burke shared an interview with Milojevic where he shared his coaching philosophy, with an emphasis on how important it was for basketball players to love the sport.

Santa Cruz Warriors play-by-play man Kevin Danna explained what many NBA and Warriors fans might not have known: That Milojević essentially created a path from Serbia to the NBA with his team in Belgrade, sending 11 players to the NBA Draft in eight years.

Andrew Greif of the Los Angeles Times shared a story from 2020 about the influence that Milojević had on Zubac’s career.

Writer Katie Heindl shared an observation about how helpful he was as an interview subject, and of course, how funny he was.

Many people also shared a Warriors video from last April, when Kerr talks about interviewing Milojević on the recommendation of Kent Lacob. It’s an interesting look at a fascinating man, but the best part is simply seeing the joy on Milojević’s face when he talks about basketball.

Milojević’s passing is a devastating loss for the Warriors and for the world of basketball in general. As more and more heartfelt tributes come in, it becomes more and more clear that the world is a little bit darker without Decky in it.

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