After he led Fenerbahce Dogus Istanbul to become the first-ever Turkish club champion of Europe thanks to a pair of resounding victories at the Final Four, his fellow Turkish Airlines EuroLeague head coaches have voted Zeljko Obradovic as the 2016-17 EuroLeague Alexander Gomelsky Coach of the Year. Already a legend in continental basketball, Obradovic becomes the first person to be awarded the Gomelsky Trophy three times. He had previously received the award after coaching Panathinaikos Athens to EuroLeague crowns in 2007 and 2011. Despite Fenerbahce Dogus Istanbul ranking fifth at the end of the 2016-17 regular season, Obradovic maximized his team’s efforts in the most important games of the competition. Fenerbahce’s title run started with a three-game sweep of Panathinaikos in the playoffs that included two road wins to open the series – a first in EuroLeague history. Its dominance continued at the Final Four in Istanbul, where Fenerbahce downed Real Madrid 84-75 in the semifinals and claimed its first EuroLeague title with an 80-64 victory over Olympiacos Piraeus in the championship game. Obradovic was chosen as this season’s Alexander Gomelsky Coach of the Year by a vote among his peers in the competition. Following him in the voting were Ioannis Sfairopoulos, who ranked second, while Sito Alonso of Baskonia Vitoria Gasteiz and Sarunas Jasikevicius of Zalgiris Kaunas tied for third place.
By winning his ninth continental title, all as a head coach, Obradovic wrote a new, brilliant page in a EuroLeague history book that already included many chapters about him. Obradovic’s nine titles are more than any other player or coach has won since European competitions started back in 1958. He has now led five different teams from four different countries – Partizan Belgrade, Joventut Badalona, Real Madrid, Panathinaikos Athens and Fenerbahce – to EuroLeague glory. And the fact that he took his first EuroLeague title with Partizan 25 years ago, also in Istanbul, has brought Obradovic’s career full circle. He also has won two Saporta Cups, with Madrid in 1997 and with Benetton Treviso in 1999. He also has led the Yugoslavian national team to two gold medals – at EuroBasket 1997 and the 1998 FIBA World Cup – and to a silver medal at the 1996 Olympic Games. Obradovic boasts as many as 15 domestic league titles, too: one in the Yugoslav League with Partizan, 11 in the Greek League with Panathinaikos, and three in the Turkish League with Fenerbahce Dogus Istanbul. All told, Obradovic is one of the biggest winners in world basketball history and has led all of his clubs to at least one trophy. In 13 years with Panathinaikos, he won 23 titles, including five EuroLeague crowns in 2000, 2002, 2007, 2009 and 2011.
Obradovic arrived to Fenerbahce in 2013, guided the club to its first Final Four by 2015 and missed the EuroLeague title by a rebound when the 2016 championship game went to overtime in one of the most thrilling finals in European club competitions history. Last season, Fenerbahce had a strong start in the all-new, round-robin EuroLeague regular season, winning its first four games on the way to an 8-3 record. A series of injuries slowed that progress, however, as Obradovic had a full roster to play with in just seven of 30 regular season games. Fenerbahce faltered at the end of the regular season, losing four of its last six games, but was fully healthy for the start of the playoffs – and that was all that mattered in the end. Obradovic had never beaten Panathinaikos in Athens since his departure from that club, but now Fenerbahce managed to do so twice on the way to its 3-0 playoffs sweep. When the Final Four arrived to Istanbul’s Sinan Erdem Dome, Obradovic and Fenerbahce did not give their opponents a chance. Ekpe Udoh led the way in the semifinals against Madrid, barely missing a triple-double with 18 points, 12 rebounds and 8 assists. Fenerbahce was unstoppable in the championship game, as well, taking big leads late in the third quarter and never looking back. When the dust settled, Fenerbahce was the first Turkish champion in EuroLeague history and Obradovic had won it all again with a fifth different club, six years after lifting his previous trophy with Panathinaikos in 2011.