|12 June 2012|
BASKETBALL IN EUROPE
|Zeljiko Obradovic, the most celebrated coach in Euroleague history with eight titles, is parting ways with his 'family' at Panathinaikos after 13 years|
There has never been a coach like Zeljko Obradovic in Europe and there probably will never be another like him.
A living legend in the profession, the man who prowls the sidelines with an unrivalled intensity, has decided to call time on his brilliant career as the coach of Panathinaikos, a job that began at in the 1999-2000 campaign.
The Greens suspected they were getting a special man, and they were.
He had already shown himself to be a great tactician when leading Partizan Belgrade (1992), Joventut Badalona ('94) and Real Madrid ('95) to Euroleague titles.
Obradovic had also led the former Yugoslavia to the top of the podium at EuroBaskets and World Championships.
So it proved to be at Panathinaikos, too.
He won, and won and won.
Obradovic captured the Greek national championship with Panathinaikos in every season but one - 2001-02 - and also steered PAO to victory in the Greek Cup in 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2012.
In the Euroleague, Obradovic won titles in 2000, 2002, 2007, 2008 and 2011.
Even this season, a year in which every company and every sports club felt the effects of the economic malaise that has afflicted the country for the past few years, Obradovic still managed to guide Panathinaikos to an appearance at the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Final Four, and a runners-up finish in the Greek championship to Olympiacos.
There have been many great players to suit up for Obradovic, like Greek basketball icon Dimitris Diamantidis, Lithuanian legend Arvydas Sabonis, or Serbian title-collector Dejan Bodiroga.
Obradovic has issued a heartfelt statement to announce his departure from the club.
It said: "When I came in June 1999 in Athens to Panathinaikos, I couldn't even imagine that this would be my team, my family, my home for 13 years.
"These 13 years, we had many beautiful moments, many celebrations, but also difficulties.
"We lived them intensely, because we were always together as a great and true family."
Obradovic thanked Panathinaikos president Pavlos Giannakopoulos and the Giannakopoulos family, saying it "made it possible with all its power for to be together all these years".
He also paid tribute to his trusted assistant coach, Dimitri Itoudis.
"Right now, I have made a very, very difficult decision for me, that the collaboration of all these years is over," Obradovic said.
It's going to be strange sight for all the Panathinaikos fans when they look at the bench next season and do not see an passionate, demanding and very emotional Obradovic.