"Even the best coach is always in the shadow of his players"Aleksandar Saša Đorđević
Born: 26th August 1967 Place of birth: Belgrade Occupation: basketball coach Family: Wife Seka, daughters Tara and Tesa
Aleksandar - Biography
Aleksandar Đorđević is one of those rare figures who have managed to accomplish two outstanding careers in basketball, both as players and coaches. Not only has he been present in the world of basketball for more than three decades, but throughout this time, he has set the standards and served as an example to young people, and also to everyone else in quest of success. He was and has remained the epitome of success. A born winner, as he has been referred to for years by the best basketball chroniclers columnists all over the world, emphasising his charisma, courage and all other qualities of a great leader.
A master of subtle communication, supreme expert on motivation, sworn enemy of alibis! This is how he is being described nowadays, with a track record of three silver medals in four major competitions with the Serbian national team. If as a player, he has received ultimate comments about all his feats, when it comes to his coaching career, his “masterpiece“ for the time being is the European Championship in Istanbul 2017. With a decimated national team of Serbia, without eight top players, within a short time he managed to create a team that exceeded everyone’s expectations, including their own. The public is unanimous: this major accomplishment is, first of all, undersigned by Saša Đorđević.
He is still remembered as one of the best European playmakers of all times, with impeccable technique, a faultless shoot and such an understanding of the game that made him “the coach’s extended arm” in all the teams he was part of. Experts predominantly described him succinctly as – a leader – due to his extraordinary charisma, the trust he invariably enjoyed among his playmates and coaches and his outstanding assertiveness. These features transpire equally in his “second career” that essentially does not differ much from the first one. He is invariably in the limelight.
He rose to fame for scoring many decisive points from hopeless situations. The point he scored in the finals of the Champions Cup 1992 in Istanbul, in the game Partisan – Huventud 71:70, when in the last three seconds he ran coast-to-coast and scored a triple that was coupled with the siren marking the end of the game, is considered to be one of the most memorable points scored in the history of this sport. The same happened at the European Championship in Barcelona in 1997, against Croatia, and then – at the request of his fellow players and the spectators – and at the exhibition game on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the Istanbul finale, and also during his farewell game in “Pioneer Hall“ in the beginning of June 2005.Born on 26th August 1967 in Belgrade, as the elder son of Bratislav (basketball coach) and Milijana - Mima (PE teacher), who also have another son, Miša, five years his junior. He grew fond of basketball as a five-year-old, while attending workouts his father held with the Red Star club, who at the time were the champions of Yugoslavia (1972). Direct contact with some of the best players in Europe in those years aroused his desire to be like them one day. On one side, there were Zoran Slavnić and Ljubodrag Simonović (Red Star), and on the other Dragan Kićanović and Dražen Dalipagić (Partisan).
He went into training in the primary school “Marko Orešković“ at New Belgrade, with coach Božidar Maljković. As a cadet, he spent a certain period in Radnički, Crveni krst – Belgrade, and then transferred to Red Star, when he was assessed as a non-starter. Invited by his friend, and his future best man, Vlada Dragutinović, he joined Partisan, where he was given the chance to prove his qualities.
When he was not in training, he toughened up on concrete playgrounds at New Belgrade, outside the apartment block he lived in. The lesson he learned in street basketball was – that you will be part of the game as long as you are winning.
He made his début in the first team of Partisan at the age of 16, in a three sizes larger jersey. He braced up in the best national league in Europe at that time, the Yugoslav League, with a whole host of talents competing with Dražen Petrović, the greatest European star of that time. In the mid-eighties, players from Partisan and Jugoplastika made up one half of the Youth National Team of Yugoslavia, who won the gold medal in a grand style at the World Championship for for Junior Men in Bormio 1987. Đorđević, Divac, Kukoč, Rađa, Pecarski, Ilić and the rest, led by coach Svetislav Pešić, overpowered the USA national team twice (in their group 110:95, and in the finals 86:76), with Gary Payton, Larry Johnson, Stacey Augmon and some other future NBA players on the team. Their coach was Larry Brown, the only coach who won both the American College League (NCAA) and the NBA. The very same year, two months ahead of his 20th birthday, Đorđević was the hero of the quarterfinals of the European Championship in Athens 1987, when Yugoslavia beat Spain 98:87. The bronze medal at “EuroBasket 1987“ was his first medal in senior competition. Four years later, in Rome, he became champion of Europe, together with Danilović, Kukoč, Paspalj, Divac, Rađa, Savić ...
The crown of his engagement in Partisan (1982-1992) was his triple in Istanbul, with which he earned the first trophy of Champions Cup (Euro League) to the “black-and-whites“. With Predrag Danilović, he formed the best shooting guards’ couple in Europe. That autumn, he continued his career in Milan, a city that attracted him more than any other, and which prevailed over the numerous offers by big clubs. In Philips (present-day Armani) he was chief even to the great Dino Meneghin, who was then at the end of his career. Two years after winning the “Radivoje Korać Cup“ he moved to Bologna in 1994, in one of the most famous basketball cities of Europe in that decade. As a player of Tim System, he led the Jugoslav national team to the gold medal at the European Championship in Athens 1995, when the Yugoslavs returned to the scene after four years of isolation due to United Nations sanctions. In the finals, playing against Lithuania, (96:90) je scored 41 point (triples 9-12), which remains to date an unbroken record of European championships. The selector of that national team was Dušan Ivković.
Having won the silver Olympic medal in Atlanta in 1996 (coach Željko Obradović), he transferred to Portland Trail Blazers, but he only stayed with them for a few months. In the course of the same season he returned to Europe and signed for Barcelona, where he was “mentor“ to Pau Gasol and Juan Carlos Navarro. He led Barcelona to two champion titles of Spain in three seasons (1997,1999) before coach Aito Garcia hinted that he should be given “a modified role” in the new season, which was a sign for him to leave. He immediately signed with the fiercest of Barcelona’s rivals, Real, and went on to play a decisive role in the very first season, in the master of the finals: the Cup of Spain went from Barcelona to Madrid, but remained in Đorđević’s hands.
At the European Championship in Barcelona in 1997, he boosted enormously Yugoslavia’s self-confidence with a triple against Croatia, which was a “replica” of the Istanbul finale in 1992, except that this time he shot over Slaven Rimac instead of Tomas Đofresa. It was his second successive gold medal, since Italy was defeated in the finals, and he also won the title of MVP of the Championship.
He went to Athens in 1998, where the World Championship was to take place, in spite of an injury. He had agreed with coach Željko Obradović to be the “joker” on the bench, and to help the national team of Yugoslavia with his experience, as they could not count on several important injured players. Yet again, in the Athens quarterfinals, (just like in EuroBasket 1987) he was the hero, this time against Argentina, when he entered the game at a point when the Yugoslavs were losing, and reversed the course of events. His contribution to winning the gold had been crucial once again. That marked his departure from the national team, with whom he had won six trophies as a player.
In 2002, he returned to Italy from Real, to Scavolini from Pesaro. Still fragile due to multiple injuries, he managed to compensate for the lack of strength with his sheer skill and continued to be among the favourite players on Italian courts. He spent the last few months of his career playing in his Milan, in an unforgettable play-off, where Armani and Climamio from Bologna were fighting for the title. During the fourth game, in Milan, it looked as if he was going to lead his team to the ‘master’. However, Ruben Duglas, from the division line pola terena, with a manoeuvre in Đorđević style, decided the finals: 3:1 for Climamio! That was the end of one of the most brilliant careers in European basketball. Đorđević merely commented: “Live by the sword, die by the sword”!
He began his career as a trainer in Armani in the season 2006/07. The he led Benetton (2011/12) through a period when that club, having lost their former glamour, were trying to return to the top. His ascent as a coach began when he took the bench of the Serbian national team, late in 2013, where he arrived at the invitation of former teammate from the national team Dejan Bodiroga (former deputy president of the Basketball Association of Serbia). Within a short period, he proved to be an excellent expert and justified the epithet of one of the best motivators in European basketball. He succeeded in transforming a national team in crisis and lacking self-esteem into a winning team who, in three successive years, participated in the play-offs of the most important competitions: silver at the World Championship in Spain in 2014, the semi-finals at the European Championship in France 2015, silver at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro 2016. “We are a TEAM”, became the winning slogan of Miloš Teodosić and all other Serbian players, who saw in Đorđević the same leader as his former team mates, who used to trust him with the final strike in decisive moments of their games. The summer of 2017 began with a massive disappointment, because of the leading players’ injuries and cancellations; however, the end was magnificent: the team trusted by so few, made it to the finals of the European Championship. Serbia with Saša Đorđević is the only European national team to have played in the semi finals of all four major competitions (2014-17).
Following the season in Panatanaikos and winning the Greek Cup with them, he continued his club career in Germany. Since the summer of 2016, he has been coaching Bayern from Munich.