Family, dignitaries and friends from throughout the world of basketball said their final goodbyes to coaching great Dusan "Duda" Ivkovic in his hometown, the Serbian capital of Belgrade, on Monday.
Zeljko Obradovic, Predrag Danilovic, Dimitris Itoudis, Svetislav Pesic, Dejan Bodiroga and Dragan Kicanovic were among those who gathered for a commemoration at the National Assembly of Serbia on the eve of the funeral for Mr. Ivkovic, who passed away in Belgrade last Thursday, six weeks before his 78th birthday.
"A man who was everything to me, is gone: a coach, a teacher, a friend," Obradovic, who returned to coach Partizan NIS Belgrade this summer, said. "He was everything to me, but not only to me... His legacy is huge. He educated and raised a large number of players, and all of them will agree that Duda helped them to be better people, too. I was one of the privileged ones."
Obradovic played for Mr. Ivkovic on the Yugoslav national teams that won the silver medal at the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul and became World Cup champions in 1990 in Buenos Aires. They later collaborated, with Obradovic as head coach and Mr. Ivkovic as team manager, when their national team won another silver at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta and gold at the 1998 World Cup in Athens, not to mention gold and bronze, respectively, in the 1997 and 1999 EuroBasket tournaments. They also coached against each other for many years in the EuroLeague, Greece and Turkey until Mr. Ivkovic's retirement in 2016.
"I could talk about him for days, stories and anecdotes," Obradovic added in his emotional speech. "I am 17 years younger than him, but he always treated me as an equal, with big respect that I was giving back. And I am sure Duda knew that he had an honest friend in me.
"I met him in the late 1970s and the first time we collaborated was in 1988, when he called me up to the national team. To be Duda's player was extremely important to me. Even then, he would take me aside and explain how, as the oldest one, I could influence the young and talented players in the most positive way. That's the first lesson he taught me, and I use that still today working with my players."
Predrag Danilovic, a former player of Mr. Ivkovic's and the current president of the Serbian Basketball Association, spoke in his role both as an official and long-time friend.
"The history of basketball is unimaginable without him," Danilovic said. "There are still benefits of the half-century of his work."
In attendance was also Aleksandar Vucic, the President of Republic of Serbia, who said:
"As president, I am proud that Serbia had and always will have such a man, proud that even though this great man has left us physically, and Dusan "Duda" Ivkovic is great, he will never leave Serbia nor will anyone in Serbia ever forget him."
Mr. Ivkovic was laid to rest on Tuesday, also in Belgrade. In attendance were members and delegations of Partizan NIS Belgrade, Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade and Olympiacos Piraeus with Vassilis Spanoulis, the leader of the team with whom the late coach won his second and final EuroLeague title. Among those paying their last respect were also Obradovic, Itoudis, Vlade Divac, Dino Radja, Zarko Paspalj, Jure Zdovc, Nikola Pekovic, Zeljko Rebraca, Pero Antic, and many, many others.