With a heavy heart, Euroleague Basketball joins the world basketball family in mourning Dusan "Duda" Ivkovic, the two-time EuroLeague champion and dean of the coaching profession, who died in his hometown of Belgrade, Serbia, on Thursday, six weeks before his 78th birthday.
After following his late older brother Slobodan into coaching at age 25 in 1968, Mr. Ivkovic served at the head of benches around Europe in five different decades from 1978 to 2017. He coached at 12 pro clubs, in his native Serbia, Croatia, Greece, Russia and Turkey, as well as leading the Yugoslav and Serbian national teams in three different decades. His impact on the sport and his status among his fellow coaches was such that he served as president of the World Association of Basketball Coaches in the mid-2000s.
"We at Euroleague Basketball are beyond sad to know that a close friend and a true giant of our sport, Duda Ivkovic, has left us too soon," Jordi Bertomeu, Euroleague Basketball CEO, said. "It is no exaggeration to say that Duda impacted European basketball as much as any coach ever, growing up in one of the cradles of the sport, Belgrade, and taking many teams to the heights of success. Even more than his accomplishments, however, Duda will be remembered as a true leader to his thousands of players and to generations of coaches. Basketball has lost one of its pioneers, but Coach Ivkovic's legacy lives on in a thriving European game that he helped lift to where it is today."
Mr. Ivkovic, a relative of the world-renowned inventor Nikola Tesla, grew up on the same street in the Belgrade neighborhood of Crveni Krst as the open basketball courts belonging to Radnicki, the club where he would coach youth categories from 1968 to 1978, when he moved across town to Partizan, with whom he won the Yugoslav League and Cup, as well as the FIBA Korac Cup, in his first season at the head of a bench.
Mr. Ivkovic alternated between Serbia and Greece for the next decades, then started winning titles in bunches with four Greek teams in between 1990 and 2001. His first Greek League title came with PAOK in 1992 and his first EuroLeague crown with Olympiacos in 1997, when he won the national league and cup, as well, for a triple crown. He then added a FIBA Saporta Cup title in 2000 with AEK Athens.
In 2002, Mr. Ivkovic moved to Russia and led CSKA Moscow into three consecutive EuroLeague Final Fours while winning the national title each of those seasons. He moved next to Dynamo Moscow, with whom he won the 2006 EuroCup, making him the only coach ever to collect four different European competition trophies. But he was far from done.
Younger generations will remember Mr. Ivkovic as the mastermind behind one of the most unlikely EuroLeague titles ever won, when he guided Olympiacos to an upset of his old team, CSKA, in the 2012 championship game despite trailing by 19 points with 11 minutes left to play. He took a break from coaching after that but came back to lead Anadolu Efes Istanbul for two seasons before retiring officially in 2017. He was honored soon after as the first and still-only coach to be named an official Euroleague Basketball Legend.
In addition to his long list of championship victories as a club coach, Mr. Ivkovic had another one as head coach of Yugoslav and Serbian national teams, starting with a silver medal at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, South Korea. Yugoslavia went on to win FIBA EuroBasket gold medals in 1989 and 1992 with Mr. Ivkovic on the bench, while in between his team climbed to the top of the sport globally by winning the 1990 FIBA World Cup in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He would add another EuroBasket title with FR Yugoslavia in 1995.
Rest in peace, Duda.