Slovenian basketball legend Jure Zdovc will assume the reins of the senior national team four years after his first spell in charge, replacing Bozidar Maljkovic in the role.
The Slovenian Basketball Federation (KZS) kept their cards close to their chest ever since Maljkovic stepped down in November and until Wednesday afternoon, when they unveiled Zdovc as the new head coach at a press conference in Ljubljana.
Zdovc has signed a 2+1 contract with KZS, which could see his reign extend all the way up to EuroBasket 2017, with the FIBA World Cup in Spain next summer the first tournament of his second stint as Slovenia head coach.
The 47-year-old tactician, who is coaching EuroChallenge club Royal Hali Gaziantep, flew to Ljubljana hours after the end of his team’s clash at home against BK Ventspils in the opener of Last 16 Group K, which the Turkish side won 72-61.
“I must say I feel quite emotional to be back,” Zdovc said.
“I am happy and honoured to get this opportunity. I am aware that expectations are high. ”In these last years the national team has taken major steps forward in all segments of the organisation.
“Boza [Maljkovic] started a project which I will have the honour to continue, he set new standards and rejuvenated the team, my vision is to follow along those lines.”
Under Maljkovic, a Slovenian side which included a mix of promising youngsters and veterans such as Jaka Lakovic and Bostjan Nachbar , who retired from international duty following the tournament, finished in fifth place at the home EuroBasket last September.
“When we were choosing a coach for the period ahead, our first choice was Jure Zdovc,” said KZS President Roman Volčič.
“We all remember what happened in Poland in 2009 and the success he had at the clubs he worked.”
In 2009, Zdovc replaced Ales Pipan at the helm of the national team and later that summer led Slovenia to the semi-finals of the EuroBasket, where they lost to Serbia in an epic semi-final, and eventually fell to Greece in the battle for the bronze medal.
The fourth place at EuroBasket 2009 remains Slovenia’s best finish in a major tournament since becoming independent from the former Yugoslavia.
“In addition to his undoubted expert knowledge, [Zdovc] brings fighting spirit, aggressiveness and ambition,” Volčič added.
“Our goal is to constantly be among the top-8 teams in the EuroBasket and qualify to every World Cup.
“With Jure as our coach, we will meet those goals.”
Zdovc stepped down as Slovenia head coach after the EuroBasket in Poland and Memi Bečirovic took over to steer the team to an 8th-place finish at the 2010 World Championship; his reign was also short-lived and Maljkovic took charge ahead of EuroBasket 2011.
During his celebrated playing career, Zdovc won silver at the 1988 Olympics, gold at EuroBasket 1989 and gold at the 1990 World Championship with Yugoslavia.
In one of the most memorable incidents in the history of European basketball, he famously sat out with tears in his eyes the final of EuroBasket 1991 in Rome, where Yugoslavia won gold, as Slovenia had just declared their independence.
He went on to lead the newly-born national team of his country in their historic first appearance at the 1992 Olympic Qualifying Tournament and terminated his national team career in 2001.
His brightest moment at club level is also linked to Maljkovic, as he conquered the Euroleague title in 1993 with Limoges, when the Serbian coach was at the helm.
As one of the best playmakers in European basketball, Zdovc was always destined to become a coach and commenced that stage of his career immediately after retiring in 2003 at the age of 37, as an assistant at Krka Novo Mesto.
His first head coaching role was at KK Split (former Yugoplastika) and he then worked at Slovan, Iraklis Thessaloniki, Olimpija Ljubljana and Bosna Sarajevo.
In 2011, he joined Spartak Saint Petersburg, led the Russian club to the Eurocup Final Four and was named coach of the year in the competition during his first season at the helm.
Zdovc stayed in Saint Petersburg until the summer of 2013 and replaced Aziz Bekir at Gaziantep in November.