Dusan Ivkovic, a friend of black days

dusan ivkovic

I don’t know what is left to say about Dusan Ivkovic. One can fairly say that, even if he had retired five years ago, still he would have one of the top levels at the list of best coaches in European basketball.

I am some anxious to write about him but at least I can share the impression that he left on me, a Turkish basketball enthusiast, after watching  the final four event as a  reclamation  of his greatness again.

Well, I would start with the words that he used in the press conference, after the final, impressed me most: “I feel a little pain in my heart. We won here but I think about those we lost, until we come here” Sometimes, not one but many sacrifices and erroneus trials needed in order to reach success.

In 1983, Yugoslavian league final; his team that included Drazen Petrovic, won against KK Bosna, with the free throws by Petrovic himself. However, right after the match, it was decided, the game needs to be replayed because of the wrong decisions.

Sibenka refused and Ivkovic had to say goodbye to title. In 1992, he was really close to his first European Cup Winners’ Cup with PAOK. Bane Prelevic sent the three pointer from downtown, and the scores were level.

One of US players Mark Simpson missed the free throw after he drew a foul and there were nearly 3 seconds left on the clock. Fassoulas, trying to start a final attack, gave the ball to Rickey Brown after a careless pass and Real Madrid won.

In 2010 World Championship, he was really close to leading the young Serbian team to the final, but there was no luck. Instead, there was Kerem Tunceri, who scored the winning basket and Semih Erden, who made the winning block afterwards.

Last season, Ivkovic couldn’t change the destiny of Olympiacos; again they lost the Greek championship to PAO again. Even the past season, after  the encounter between Olympiacos and Galatasaray at ?stanbul,  he made me write this article, in Turkish, that I show my respect even though they lost the game in overtime, after Sloukas sent a buzzer beater from mid-court.

Taking all those into the account he was a broken heart. However, considering that he led Olympiacos to its first Euroleague title and various crowns at other clubs as Partizan, AEK and  PAOK he was a triumphant personality.

In short, he is a man who knows how to feel victorious and defiant notwithstanding that after all those games, independently from the result, he could start answering your question like: “Look, my friend…”.  Before coming to his coaching skills, he was first of all, a respectable person.

It was not meaningless that he was the first person,  when Partizan won the Euroleague title in ?stanbul, Aleksandar Djordjevic run and celebrate after scoring the game winner. **

His first team, was Radnicki, which means something like “Workers” in Serbian language. May be his humbleness, work ethic and hardworking character can be related to that.

He was the one, who did not let Yugoslavian team alone, when FIBA exclude them from international competitions. In the hardest days of the history of the country, he worked without expecting much, can be counted as a testimony of his “friend of black days” feature.

When the exclusion ended, he made Yugoslavia, champions of Eurobasket again after a controversial final against Lithuania. CSKA was stuck in a hard period when the new millienium began. Ivkovic made them wake up and reclaim their power, their Russian crown.

Same he did to Dynamo Moscow in 2006, who won Eurocup. Serbia was totally defiant in Eurobasket 2007 and he recharged the basketball team of the country and reached Eurobasket final, only two years later, with the youngest team the of the tournament along with Nemanja Bjelica, Novica Velickovic, Milenko Tepic, Milan Macvan, Uros Tripkovic and of course, Milos Teodosic.

The thing that Ivkovic had succeed in, last Sunday, was not just a Euroleague title. With players like Evangelis Mantzaris, Kostas Sloukas and Kostas Papanikolaou as well as Katsivelis, he gave hope to Greek basketball.

The trusted these young Greeks, none of them are beyond 22, became European champions at U20 level in 2009 and Ivkovic gave them a chance to shine in the European top  level club competition.

He motivated and helped them improve their skills and now they become a part of European basketball literature. That was really good for Greece, while the country struggling in political and financial matters.

When Istanbul hosted Euroleague Women’s Final Eight this year, I had a little chat with Steve Costalas, the general manager of Spartak Moscow Vidnoe who worked with many clubs in Greece and Russian and knows Ivkovic well, predicted that the Greeks will find a way. “After Giannakis and Galis retired, everybody thought that it was over. However, then came Ekonomou, Alvertis, Sigalas. After them, there was Spanoulis, Diamantidis. I mean, I believe that despite the current situation, they will find a way again.” Mr. Costalas was right, Ivkovic showed a way to Greece, while putting a new generation in the top stage. With all my respect.

**Vladimir Stankovic, “1992: Partizans miracle year”