24 Jan

‘Heartbreaking, devastating’

The Golden State Warriors practiced for the first time on Monday since the death of assistant coach Dejan Milojevic. The Warriors assistant died the morning of Jan. 17 after suffering a heart attack the previous day while at a restaurant in Utah for a team dinner. The NBA subsequently postponed Golden State’s game against the Utah Jazz that was slated to take place that night, as well as a Friday home game against the Dallas Mavericks.

Warriors head coach Steve Kerr addressed the media for the first time on Monday since Milojevic’s death, sharing how difficult the past five days have been.

“It’s hard to describe the week. Heartbreaking, devastating. It’s just the saddest thing I’ve ever been a part of in the NBA, where we lose someone who’s so close to us,” Kerr said. “And then, more importantly, seeing his family suffer. So this last week has been — last five days, I guess — has been full of all of the above. The shock, the emotion, the extreme outpouring of love from all over the world.”

Kerr continued by talking about the love shown from Milojevic’s home country Serbia, where a tribute was held recently that featured the team Milojevic used to coach against the team he used to play for.

“I don’t know if any of you saw — we watched as a team this morning the event that they had in Serbia. Deki’s two teams were playing against each other, it just happened to be on the schedule tonight — Mega, the team he coached, versus Partizan, the team he starred for. And I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anything like the pregame dedication from the fans and the organizations there to Deki. It was incredible. We watched it as a team, so I think we got a better sense of just what Deki meant to his countrymen. Of course, [with] how much he meant to us and to Natasha and Masha and Nikola, it’s been a devastating week.”

Partizan shared video of the tribute held for Milojevic on X, formerly known as Twitter, where fans could be seen chanting in Serbian while images of Milojevic were shared on the jumbotron and a banner featuring him hung on one side of the arena.

DEJAN MILOJEVIĆ.🕊️🖤🤍#KKPartizan #ABALiga pic.twitter.com/CnAFMLmB40

— KK Partizan Mozzart Bet (@PartizanBC) January 22, 2024
Kerr also thanked the league, the Mavericks and Jazz for allowing their past two games to be postponed.

“We needed it, and I want to thank the NBA [and] Adam Silver, for postponing those two games, there’s no way any of us could’ve walked out onto a court and played a basketball game either Wednesday or Friday,” Kerr said. “So I want to thank Adam [Silver], and the Mavericks and the Jazz, because those games will be made up and it will complicate the schedule for them. So I want to thank everybody.”

When asked about his favorite memories about Milojevic, Kerr highlighted how much he enjoyed coming to work because of the joy Deki brought everyday.

“Deki had an amazing way of being very direct and honest without threatening anyone,” Kerr said. “Sometimes those coaches meetings can get contentious, you know we all have different ideas, and he always had a gleam in his eye and a laugh even when he was challenging us — especially when he was challenging the rest of the group. He had a lot of great, funny sayings that he would use, sometimes Serbian words, sometimes just kind of his English version of things. He was just a guy who constantly saw the good in people, and the joy in life. And how could you not embrace and love that everyday, when you’re coming into a season that goes from 7-9 months? That’s exactly the kind of person I want to be with everyday. Deki was that guy for everybody.”

During Golden State’s practice Monday, players and coaches were wearing shirts that had the word “Brate” printed on them, which is Serbian for the word “brother.” The shirts also feature a heart with the letters “DM” inscribed in them in honor of Milojevic.

With the Warriors returning to practice that likely means they will be playing in Wednesday’s game against the Atlanta Hawks in San Francisco. It will mark a week since Milojevic’s death, and while the team is still very much in the mourning process, Kerr shared how he tried to picture how the team could possibly move past this tragic event.

“I lean on [Warriors assistant coach] Ron Adams so much, Ron has been a mentor for me — obviously an amazing coach for all of our players and and for our coaches — but I lean on him for wisdom and I asked him a couple days ago, I said ‘How do we go on from here, what do we do?'” Kerr said. “And Ron thought for a second and he said, ‘It’s relatively simple, you ask the guys, what would Deki want us to do?’ And I thought about it and I literally could picture Deki smiling and laughing and saying, ‘You mother——s need to go win a basketball game,’ and then laughing. Sorry for the language, I just wanted to share my vision of Deki, that’s exactly what he would’ve said with a smile on his face.”

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