Dejan Milojević’s death has the NBA’s Serbian players ‘hurting a lot,’ Chicago Bulls center Nikola Vučević says

TORONTO — Nikola Vučević will keep in mind Dejan Milojević for his positivity.

The Chicago Bulls heart didn’t meet Milojević in particular person till he grew to become an assistant coach for the Golden State Warriors in 2021. But Vučević grew up with Milojević as an everyday determine in his basketball training, first as a participant after which as a coach and mentor to the following technology of Serbian stars.

Milojević died at age 46 after struggling a coronary heart assault throughout a workforce dinner Tuesday night time in Salt Lake City. The NBA postponed the Warriors’ video games Wednesday towards the Utah Jazz and Friday towards the Dallas Mavericks to provide the workforce correct time to mourn.

For Vučević, Milojević leaves a legacy of taking part in, teaching and main with a brilliant power that was obvious to those that met him.

“He just has a great energy,” Vučević stated Thursday. “I felt like I’d known him for a long time. It’s such a tragic loss for basketball and especially for basketball back home.”

Milojević’s taking part in profession stretched from 1994 to 2009, and he was a three-time MVP of the Adriatic Basketball Association, the highest league within the former Yugoslavian republics. He represented Serbia and Slovenia internationally, profitable a gold medal with Serbia on the 2001 EuroBasket match.

Vučević described the respect that Milojević commanded by outplaying his 6-foot-7 top as an undersized large man, muscling out taller gamers to dominate the Euroleague on the boards.

“He was a huge competitor,” Vučević stated. “He just played really hard. He was an undersized four or five and made up for it with his IQ and effort.”

After his retirement as a participant, Milojević grew to become a outstanding coach in Serbia most identified for his mentorship of two-time NBA MVP Nikola Jokić. He took over as coach of Mega Vizura in 2012 and despatched 11 gamers to the NBA draft over the following eight seasons earlier than becoming a member of Steve Kerr’s Warriors employees. He additionally served as an assistant coach for the Serbian nationwide workforce from 2019-21.

Vučević stated he reached out to Jokić — in addition to Oklahoma City Thunder guard Vasilije Micić and Miami Heat ahead Nikola Jović, who additionally knew Milojević from Mega — to examine in Wednesday.

“I know a lot of them are hurting a lot,” Vučević stated. “I know it’s not easy. A lot of the younger guys that came up with him, it really touched them deeply.”

Milojević’s loss of life forged a shadow over the Bulls’ sport Thursday night time towards the Toronto Raptors, whose head coach, Darko Rajaković, was a longtime good friend of Milojević.

Rajaković fought by way of tears earlier than and after Wednesday’s sport towards the Heat whereas describing Milojević’s affect on Serbian basketball. He drew up an after-timeout play within the first quarter that he lovingly described as “stolen” from his good friend.

“I knew Dejan since I was a teenager,” Rajaković advised reporters. “He was a role model as a player, as a man, as a husband, as a coach — somebody that I really admired and have a lot of respect for. This is a really sad day for the whole NBA community.”