The family of Turkish Airlines EuroLeague clubs, coaches and players lamented together the loss of the great Dusan Ivkovic as word spread of the passing on Thursday of the long-time head coach and father figure of his profession.
His loss was felt strongest in the many places where "Duda", as he was known to all, left his lasting imprint as a coach, starting with Olympiacos Piraeus, the club with which he won his two EuroLeague titles 15 years apart, in 1997 and 2012.
"Our red-and-white family is devastated," Olympiacos said in a statement. "The greatest coach of Olympiacos and one of the top in Europe, the huge Dusan Ivkovic, is no longer with us. The legend Duda has made the long journey and left behind a huge gap. At such times words are poor... Our thoughts are with his family. Teacher, thank you for what you have offered us. We will always remember you."
Recently retired Olympiacos legend Vassilis Spanoulis, who won his second EuroLeague title under Mr. Ivkovic, spoke from the heart on his Instagram account.
"Oh Duda. TEACHER, LEADER, LORD!!!" Spanoulis wrote. "The words are small, few, in front of your majesty... Thank you for what you taught me... Thank you for being my mentor and for always being by my side! You were basketball itself! I am devastated."
"It was a very tough day full of emotions and I want to thank the fans that bid farewell to my great friend Duda Ivkovic in the way he deserved," an emotional Zeljko Obradovic said after Partizan NIS Belgrade's game against Anadolu Efes Istanbul on Thursday night. "I was very sad when I got that news in the morning when I woke up. I would not like to talk about my relationship with him, I think it is well known the relationship we had, and I think Partizan did everything today to say goodbye to Duda with dignity. There will be more chances in the future because he was a person who gave a lot to Partizan."
The feelings were no less strong at CSKA Moscow, where Mr. Ivkovic coached for three successful seasons between 2002 and 2005, reaching the EuroLeague Final Four in all three.
"This is incredibly sad news for all basketball world," CSKA president Andrey Vatutin said. "Dusan Ivkovic will remain in our memory as a true legend... For all of us – coaches, players, fans, managers – Dusan was a true mentor, a man who knew absolutely everything about basketball and life. He was a colleague, teacher, friend... Deepest condolences to the family, numerous friends, everyone who loved and respected this great man. We were all lucky to work with him. This experience was unforgettable."
No less affected was CSKA's head coach, Dimitris Itoudis, who early in his career coincided with Mr. Ivkovic in Thessaloniki, Greece, and formed a lifelong friendship.
"This is a really emotional moment for me; it's hard to find words," Itoudis said in a statement. "Duda had great wife Nena and two adorable sons, Petar and Pavle, but I felt like his sports son. It is a great honor and privilege that I met such a coach and person, and I will always remember the lessons I got from him. His friendship was priceless as much as his belief and trust in me. He was my heart and soul."
Mr. Ivkovic's former point guard on the Yugoslav national team, current Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul coach Sasha Djordjevic, tweeted about his friend and mentor's "smile, charm and gentlemanliness." He included a picture when they coached against each other, saying, "Rare moments when we were rivals...usually we won medals together. Rest in peace."
Kyle Hines, currently with AX Armani Exchange Milan, remembered fondly his tutelage under Mr. Ivkovic at Olympiacos, where they won the 2012 EuroLeague title together in remarkable fashion.
Milan coach Ettore Messina was among the EuroLeague coaches who felt Mr. Ivkovic's loss and attested to his huge impact on the European game and their profession.
"Dusan Ivkovic has been a great coach and basketball teacher for over many decades," Messina said. "His longevity as a coach speaks for itself and is a tribute to his talent and ability to adjust and to stay open minded during the evolution of the game. The chance to compete against some of the all-time greats, and learn from them, is one of the great privileges that I have enjoyed during my career. Duda has definitely been one of them. My sincere condolences to his family."
UNICS Kazan coach Velimir Perasovic won two gold medals under Mr. Ivkovic, at the 1990 World Cup in Buenos Aires and at EuroBasket 1991 in Rome, as a member of the Yugoslav national team.
"He is a man I remember as a great coach, and who was an extremely honest person," Perasovic said. "I can say only positive things about Duda, including that he was one of the best coaches I ever saw and had a chance to work with. It is very sad news. He coached until few years back, and even in his last years of coaching, he was still one of the best coaches. A man who worked at the highest level all the way until the end of his career, and practically until the end of his life. Surely, Duda is one of the best coaches in the history of basketball in Europe."
One of Mr. Ivkovic's more recent competitors, Pablo Laso of Real Madrid, related what it meant to share the sidelines with a legend.
"I think Duda is a reference because of his knowledge of basketball. That is something that not only players and coaches but all people around basketball have understood for many years," Laso said. "One year, we beat his Efes team in the playoffs and I always remember a friend saying to me: 'Hey, you beat Duda!' That was something difficult, something different, because he was so respected by everyone. Away from basketball, he was a very normal person. I remember at the Final Four in Vitoria he was with some friends having dinner and I was with some friends on the next table. He was very happy – we spoke about basketball, about life, and that was my last chat with him. He gave so much to basketball. He was always in great clubs – Olympiacos, CSKA, Efes – and he meant so much for many people in basketball all around Europe. It's a sad day but I think he's somebody who will be remembered forever."
Virtus Segafredo Bologna's Sergio Scariolo spoke for many in his profession who coached against Mr. Ivkovic.
Players who knew Mr. Ivkovic more as an opponent were just as moved to pay respect to a legend.
Laso's team captain, Sergio Llull, expressed his appreciation of Mr. Ivkovic from the point of view of an opposing player.
"I think he was one of the best coaches Europe has ever had," Lull said. "He always took basketball forward, implementing new things and getting the most out of his players. It's a great shame and a great loss for basketball."
Vasilije Micic, Anadolu Efes Istanbul: "May you have eternal glory. Thank you for everything."
Nikola Mirotic, FC Barcelona: "Thanks you for everything coach. Rest in peace."
Mr. Ivkovic’s other former clubs now in Euroleague Basketball competitions, defending EuroLeague champion Anadolu Efes Istanbul and Partizan NIS Belgrade, shared their respect, as did many other teams from the EuroLeague and 7DAYS EuroCup.