NBA rumors: Pistons considering Zeljko Obradovic to replace Lawrence Frank

David Ramos

The Pistons are reportedly looking overseas to fill their vacant head coaching position.

Of all the rumored candidates to replace Lawrence Frank, here's a name I bet most of you haven't heard: Zeljko Obradovic. For those not familiar (including me), let's turn to Wikipedia:

[Obradovic] is a Serbian professional basketball coach and a former professional basketball player. He is generally considered one of the best European coaches ever, having won eight Euroleague (only Real Madrid has won 8 Euroleague titles) titles with four different clubs. In addition to his success at the club level, he has won major trophies as Serbian national basketball team head coach, such as the 1997 FIBA European Championship and the 1998 FIBA World Championship.

In 2008, he was named one of the 50 Greatest Euroleague Contributors.

In other words, he's apparently the Serbian Phil Jackson. How is he linked to Detroit? According to the Spanish site The Counter (via HoopsHype), the Pistons have already contacted Obradovic. That is, I think that's what it says. The Google Translation is really rough -- hopefully DBB's Spanish-speaking readers can help out in the comments:

Important news in European basketball. For the first time a coach from Europe is a candidate to coach a franchise NBA next season. Zeljko Obradovic is right now in the slate of candidates to replace Lawrence Frank in Detroit. The list was reduced to two this weekend leaving an American coach and him.

[...] Obradovic's arrival as coach Detroit Pistons will immediately open franchising to sound more European coaches in the future. If Pau Gasol led the influx of players from Europe, Obradovic may emerge as the architect for the European coach finally not see the NBA as inaccessible. [...] The dilemma of Joe Dumars as may be historic decision for the development of basketball in the United States and here in Europe.

It appears that Obradovic has been unemployed since leaving Greece’s Panathinaikos Athens in 2012, but he spent October in Detroit observing training camp, and traveled to London to watch them during their overseas trip. From an interview with El Juego de Naismith:

I'll tell you one thing, I've been training in October watching the Detroit Pistons in the preseason and has been something really, really nice to me. Then I saw the first official match played at home against Houston and then invited me to the game they played in London. After this, the Copa del Rey de Vitoria was the next time that I have seen live basketball. On television, I have not seen more than half an hour, I do not see much, I'm totally disconnecting basketball, I see Euroleague games occasionally but never a full game. I follow him, I see a game of the ACB league, but never see it whole.

Keith Langlois mentioned Obradovic's Detroit connection in a story from the London trip:

Coaching legend Zeljko Obradovic – he’s the European Phil Jackson, with eight European Championships under his belt at coaching stops in Yugoslavia, Italy, Spain and Greece – was in attendance with longtime assistant Dmitris Itoudis. They spent all of October in Auburn Hills observing the Pistons throughout training camp and preseason. Obradovic’s presence caused a stir among the European press. One reporter asked Austin Daye if he was prodding Obradovic for any tips.

"I’ve talked to him," Daye said. "But I haven’t asked him for any advice."

So, there you have it. Take this report with a grain of salt, but it's certainly interesting to think about. Would you be happy to see the Pistons hire such an accomplished head coach, or does his lack of NBA experience worry you?

Update: Obradovic's agent, Alex Raskovic, disputes the report (via Eurohoops.net):

More from Eurohoops:

When Joe Dumars was asked in London by Greek reporters of OTE TV channel if he would hire Zeljko Obradovic as his coach, Detroit's president of basketball operations smiled and said: "He is the best coach in the world". For many years, Zoc was loved - and still is - as god in Athens where he coach Euroleague powerhouse Panathinaikos and in his interviews he denied any interest to coach in the NBA.

That changed this year, as his longtime assistant Dimitris Itoudis convinced him to attend the training camp of Detroit. For many years Itoudis was present in the summer leagues as a Pistons' collaborator, but this time he had himself in the states his longtime boss and close friend. It was kind of vacations, as he told Eurohoops, but it was also an experienced that change his mindset for the American league. He met again with Detroit, as a guest of the team in their London game in January.

That second link in the blockquote above has an interesting picture of Obradovic chilling with Dumars and Pistons assistant GM George David. I wish I could find another source for that Dumars/Greek quote, too -- anyone in the comments find anything?

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