“Praying for His Beautiful Wife…”: Heartbroken by Dejan Milojević’s Passing, Draymond Green’s Wife Shares Sincere Condolences to His Family
USA Today via Reuters
Before meeting Dejan Milojević, Nikola Jokic was an obese 17-year-old. But it was Milojević who not only told him he had a bright future, but also that he could compete in the NBA. With his help, Jokic got in shape, honed his skills, and got drafted into the top league. But he wasn’t just a successful coach. He was also a legendary player. Milojević dropped 141 points in his 16U team as a 14-year-old in 1991. Because of his height and playing position, he was dubbed the ‘Serbian Charles Barkley’.
The 6’7” man enjoyed a 14-year-old career playing overseas before eventually retiring in 2009. While he didn’t intend to become a coach, an opportunity came along and he started coaching at Mega Basket. That’s where he first met a teenage Nikola Jokic and mentored him. In 2021, Milojević joined the Golden State Warriors as a coach and by then, he already had NBA coaching experience. His death has led the NBA community to a state of mourning, including Draymond Green’s wife.
Draymond Green’s wife posts a somber message for Milojević’s family
The news left Draymond Green‘s wife, Hazel Renee, disturbed. She took to Instagram to write a heartfelt condolence for his family, which read, “Praying for his beautiful wife, son, and daughter.”
The coach is survived by his wife Natasa Milojević and their two children, Nikola and Masa. As per the Warriors’ statement, the coach was hospitalized in Salt Lake City, Utah, after he suffered a heart attack at a private team dinner. “Despite life-saving efforts, Milojević, 46, passed away late Wednesday morning,” the statement read.
Milojević was in his third season with the team. When GSW won the 2022 NBA Championship, the assistant coach was right there with them. Now, in light of this unforeseen occurrence, the NBA postponed the Golden State Warriors vs Utah Jazz game. It was scheduled for the night of Jan. 17, 2024.
Milojevic’s coaching legacy will forever be remembered in the Serbian basketball landscape as he achieved great success with the Mega MIS Belgrade, leading the squad to triumph in the Serbian Cup in 2016. His journey continued with a short but effective stay with Buducnost VOLI Podgorica in 2021 when he won both the Montenegrin League and the Montenegrin Cup.
During his career as a player, Milojević recorded the maximum number of Adriatic MVPs. He was the star of the Serbian national team during the 90s and 2000s. He passionately led his national team to the EuroBasket championship in 2001 and finished ninth in EuroBasket 2005. He also played for several European club teams. In fact, in 2008, received a minimum-contract offer from an NBA team. But a 28-year-old Milojević rejected it. He wanted to live a simple life with his family.
At age 32, his playing career came to an end because of knee issues. However, that gave him the opportunity to mentor Jokic. At that time, the teenager could barely do a pushup and would get tired after a couple of trips up and down the court. But in a slow-footed, 300-pound teenager, Milojević saw potential.
Milojević and Jokic’s bond was so strong that after the coach’s death, GSW’s head coach Steve Kerr asked Nuggets head coach Michael Malone to share a message with Nikola Jokic: “Deki loved you, and he was proud of you.”
NBA world mourns the sad loss of the GSW assistant coach
Warriors Brandin Podziemski was the first Golden State player to share his thoughts online. “You changed my life in such a short time. The most important thing you ever told me was to just smile! Your joy and laughs will forever be missed. Shine down on us from heaven. Rest In Peace Dejan Milojević,” he wrote.
The team’s head coach, Steve Kerr, was just as devastated. Even NBA Commissioner Adam Silver released a statement on Milojevic’s death. “In addition to winning the 2022 NBA championship in his first season with the Warriors and mentoring some of the best players in the world, Dejan had a decorated international playing career and was a distinguished head coach in his native Serbia,” a part of the statement read.
Utah Jazz coach Will Hardy once had the pleasure of working with Milojević at the San Antonio Spurs Summer League squad. “He is as advertised, one of the most joyous, happy, positive people I’ve ever been around in my life,” he shared.
Dejan Milojević’s unexpected passing has created a vacuum in the basketball community, notably inside the Golden State Warriors franchise. So, as the basketball community mourns the death of a passionate coach and great human, his legacy will live on forever.