Fenerbahce coach Zeljko Obradovic has revealed that he could not be a national team coach for fear that he would come up against his home nation of Serbia.
The winningest coach in the EuroLeague, who was born in Cacak, located in the western part of Serbia has had offers to coach many national sides in the past, but insists that he never wants to be at the opposite end of his home land.
“I have received calls to coach several national teams,” Obradovic told Serbian outlet Bilc.
“From Europe and other continents. I’ve rejected all of them. I can’t imagine myself on the bench of a different national team. And playing against Serbia. I cannot. When it comes to a club, it’s different.”
Obradovic has always found comfort in club coaching since his retirement as a player in 1991, where he represented his country when it was known as Yugoslavia.
The crowning achievement for Obradovic was a gold medal that Yugoslavia captured in 1990 at the FIBA World Cup. He also won a silver medal at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul.
International competition is the pinnacle of basketball competition, says the 57-year-old, who revealed that the Serbian team were in tears when they learned that they were suspended from competing at the 1992 Summer Games in Barcelona due to the war that resulted in the split of Yugoslavia.
“I always said that playing or coaching a national team is the greatest achievement and honour in life,” Obradovic said. “And I’ve done both. When they suspended us (Serbia) from the 1992 Olympic Games the players were crying because they wouldn’t play.
“I always advise all players to respond to the invitation of the national team. I tell every one of them: It’s the greatest honor to play with the jersey of your national team. That’s my attitude. It’s incredible how many cancel their participation. It’s impossible that everyone has a serious reason.”
Serbia will be amongst the favourites to finish on the podium at Eurobasket this year. Obradovic, who won his ninth EuroLeague title in May with Fenerbahce has seen his Serbian star Bogdan Bogdanovic leave the Istanbul giants for the Sacramento Kings.
The combo guard will be representing Serbia this summer.
“Bogdan has an incredible ambition,” Obradovic said of Bogdanovic.
“At the end of the season, I had an exceptional conversation with him. I understood what he wanted and, before that, I told him that every decision he makes will have my support.
“He goes to Sacramento Kings to become a leader. I sincerely believe he will succeed because I know how devoted he is and how much he works. I want him to succeed from my heart.”