Alexander Gomelskiy Coach of the Year: Zeljko Obradovic, Panathinaikos

Jun 29, 2011 by Print
Alexander Gomelskiy Coach of the Year: Zeljko Obradovic, Panathinaikos

After another brilliant season from a master whose records just keep growing bigger, eight-time Euroleague champion Zeljko Obradovic has been voted as the winner of the 2010-11 Euroleague Basketball Alexander Gomelskiy Coach of the Year Trophy. A vote of head coaches on Turkish Airlines Euroleague teams during the season just finished determines the award winner. Obradovic and Panathinaikos claimed their fifth continental title together this spring with victory at the 2011 Turkish Airlines Euroleague Final Four. They have won all five of those titles since 2000, three of them in the last five seasons.This season's runner-up was David Blatt of Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv, the team that lost to Panathinaikos in the title game, while Simone Pianigiani of Montepaschi Siena, whose team lost to the Greens in the semifinals, finished third. This is the second time Obradovic has claimed the award, which debuted in 2005. Obradovic previously won in 2007.

At age 50, Obradovic has already amassed a list of career accomplishments that is second-to-none among European coaches and among the best in the entire world of basketball. His eight Euroleague titles are double those of the four legends who are tied for second place – including the man for whom the trophy is named, Alexander Gomelskiy. Moreover, he has won the Saporta Cup twice in addition to 12 domestic league titles and seven cups. As a national team coach in his native Serbia, Obradovic has also earned gold medals at both the World and European Championships and a silver medal at the Olympic. Obradovic appeared in the very first Final Four as a player in 1988 and lost, though that would be something he never got used to. Although he went from player to coach practically overnight, Obradovic quickly made his mark on the bench as a rookie with Partizan Belgrade. What should have been difficult first season due to political sanctions at the time that forced Partizan to play all its games away, instead turned historic when Obradovic and Partizan won the 1992 Euroleague title with a miracle buzzer-beater that remains one of the most dramatic shots in basketball history. After two years with Partizan, Obradovic moved to Spain and guided Joventut Badalona to its first and only Euroleague title. His next stop was Real Madrid, where in 1995 Obradovic claimed his third Euroleague crown in four years as a head coach. In 1997, Obradovic led Madrid to the Saporta Cup title and in 1999 he did the same with Benetton Treviso. After coaching for four clubs over his first eight seasons on the bench, Obradovic found a home in Athens when he took over the reins at Panathinaikos in 1999. The rest is history. Over 12 seasons with the Greens, Obradovic has been to seven Final Fours and won five championships to establish himself among the very best in the history of the coaching profession.

Like many of his Panathinaikos teams, the 2010-11 squad simply got better as the season progressed and peaked at the perfect time. That is not to say, however, that the Greens were not tough from the start. Panathinaikos lost only once in the first half of the regular season and that was by a single point in overtime on the road at Union Olimpija. A Week 7 win at CSKA Moscow followed by a wild come-from-behind overtime victory over Olimpija allowed Panathinaikos to win Group D with two games remaining in the regular season. Despite a 3-1 start to the Top 16, a narrow home loss to Lietuvos Rytas created plenty of drama going into the Top 16 finale. In the end, the veteran guard duo of Dimitris Diamantidis and Drew Nicholas helped the Greens defeat Unicaja to reach the playoffs, where the defending champs, Regal F.C. Barcelona, were waiting with homecourt advantage. Their series will go down as one of the most intense in modern basketball. Barcelona won Game 1 at home by a single point, but Diamantidis and Romain Sato inspired Panathinaikos to victory in Game 2 before heading to Athens. The Greens hung on to win Game 3 by just 2 points before Diamantidis and Co. wrapped up the best-of-five series up with a double-digit victory in Game 4. One of the young players that Obradovic had groomed throughout the season, Nick Calathes, played a major role on defense against Juan Carlos Navarro, the previous season's Final Four MVP, to help secure the series. Once at the 2011 Turkish Airlines Euroleague Final Four in Barcelona, Calathes continued to shine on offense, leading Panathinaikos past Montepaschi Siena in their semifinal. Then in the title game, Diamantidis took control with long-time running mate Mike Batiste to beat Maccabi Electra. Obradovic, as usual, was in control every step of the way. Two more victories gave Obradovic a career record of 19-5 at Final Fours, including 8-1 in title games.

The Alexander Gomelskiy Coach of the Year Trophy pays tribute to the legend who was the winning coach of the first three Euroleague titles, from 1958 to 1960, with ASK Riga. Gomelskiy, the father of basketball in the Soviet Union and Russia, led CSKA to its last Euroleague crown before the modern era in 1971. He passed away in 2005 at age 77. Since then, the award has been handed out to the best head coach of each Euroleague season, as voted by his fellow head coaches. Pini Gershon of Maccabi Tel Aviv was the inaugural winner, Ettore Messina of CSKA Moscow won in 2006 and 2008, Dusko Vujosevic won with Partizan in 2009 and last year the winner was Xavi Pascual of Regal FC Barcelona. Obradovic is due to receive the Alexander Gomelskiy Coach of the Year trophy in person at the 2011-12 Turkish Airlines Euroleague Draw on Thursday, July 7 in Barcelona, Spain.