Maljković coaching Slovenia at EuroBasket in September 2011.
April 20, 1952 |
Otočac, PR Croatia, FPR Yugoslavia
|1986-1990||KK Split (Jugoplastika)|
|2007||Saski Baskonia (TAU Cerámica)|
|Career highlights and awards|
As head coach:
Božidar "Boža" Maljković (born 20 April 1952) is a Serbian professional basketball coach, one of the most successful in Europe, having won league titles with practically all the clubs he trained; including four Euroleague titles with three different clubs (Jugoplastika Split, Limoges, and Panathinaikos).
- 1 Early life
- 2 Coaching career
- 3 Individual awards
- 4 Coaching style
- 5 Controversy
- 6 References
- 7 External links
Born in Otočac within the region of Lika, Maljković's family moved to Kraljevo when he was eight and in that time he set a record for crossing a road distance from Kraljevo to Vrnjacka Banja in less than 30 minutes with some old rusty bike.2
He took up basketball, playing the shooting guard position. Assessing his own playing skills, Maljković later said: "I had a decent shot, but no defensive skills. As a coach I would never pick myself as a player in any serious team".3
Having ended his playing career prematurely, at only 19 years of age, Maljković started coaching immediately in the small, freshly established, basketball club KK Ušće, in Belgrade. In fact, Maljković is listed as one of the four people who founded the club in 1971 on the initiative of the local communist authorities from the New Belgrade municipality. Reportedly, the catalyst to establish a new community-based basketball club was the gruesome murder that occurred within a family living in the Ušće neighbourhood when a father murdered his own son; the shock throughout the community prompted the local authorities into deciding to create a basketball club in order to provide the neighbourhood youngsters with something to do. The murder came on the heels of the general increase in criminality in the Ušće local community numbering some 12,000 residents, mostly newly arrived families of the Yugoslav People's Army personnel from all over SFR Yugoslavia, all of which only sped up the process of establishing a basketball club as means of channeling the energy of the local youth into something positive.
Maljković, himself a young man, began coaching the club in 1971. In parallel to coaching basketball, Maljković enrolled at the University of Belgrade's Faculty of Law though he never graduated. Working in extremely modest circumstances without regular access to a gym and with mostly outdoor practices in Ušće park, the club still managed to gain multiple promotions and jump several ranks of competition.
Noticing Maljković's dedication and enthusiasm at Ušće, in 1979, established head coach Bratislav Đorđević invited the 27-year-old across town to be his assistant at BKK Radnički, another Belgrade club that much like KK Ušće started out as a community-based operation in the city neighbourhood of Crveni Krst.
Seeing Radnički was playing in the First Federal League (top division in the Yugoslav basketball pyramid), Maljković jumped at the opportunity. The club was also only six years removed from its biggest success — national league title in the 1972-73 season. In the years following their domestic title, they additionally put together memorable European campaigns, reaching the 1973-74 FIBA European Champions Cup semifinal as well as the 1976-77 FIBA European Cup Winner's Cup final. Despite being in constant shadow of the city giants Red Star and Partizan, Radnički nevertheless managed to carve out a place for itself on the Yugoslav basketball map, establishing an identity of a scrappy small club regularly punching above its weight.
In Maljković's first season at Radnički as Đorđević's assistant, 1979-80, the club finished with 9-13 record, placing 10th in the 12-team league thus barely avoiding relegation. It also experienced major budgetary problems with its main backers, state-owned Fabrika odlivaka Beograd (FOB, iron foundry factory) and LMK, cutting their sponsorships. At one point Maljković, who temporarily quit his law studies, said he didn't receive a salary for five months.4
Continual financial struggles at the club affected it in various ways and during summer 1980 head coach Đorđević left. Young Maljković became his replacement, admitting to getting the position "not because I was somehow the best fit to lead this particular team, but simply because nobody else wanted the job".5 Playing their home games at Hala sportova, his debut season as head coach in the First League brought no improvement for the club that finished with identical 9-13 record, good for 9th place this time. Maljković's Radnički, however, directly influenced the title race by beating Cibona late in the season (handing Cibona only its third loss that season) thus enabling their Hala co-tenants Partizan to take the championship by catching up to Cibona's 19-3 record and overtaking it at the top of the table due to better head-to-head record (this was before the playoff system was introduced in the league).
Maljković stayed for the 1981-82 season as well, leading Radnički one more time to its now customary 9-13 record.
Summing up his time with Radnički, in 2013 Maljković expressed "certain sadness all these years later due to feeling I could've done more with that team, something like what I managed with Jugoplastika later, but on a smaller scale, because we had a very talented group of young players along with some older ones".6
With a bit of a coaching CV now behind him, Maljković was approached during summer 1982 by Red Star Belgrade about joining their coaching staff as assistant to legendary coach Ranko Žeravica in addition to an offer of simultaneously leading the club's youth system. He took the job largely due to Žeravica's clout and authority in Yugoslav basketball despite advice from some colleagues who felt that taking an assistant job after being a head coach in the First League was a step backwards career-wise.
Maljković's big head coaching break would come at Jugoplastika Split, where he arrived on recommendation from Aca Nikolić in early summer 1986. The young assistant coach was not the club's first choice as they initially wanted Vlado Đurović,7 the hottest coaching commodity in Yugoslav basketball at the time having just led KK Zadar to the league championship. In demand Đurović, however, turned down the head coaching offer from Split, choosing the one from Red Star Belgrade instead so after unsuccessfully courting a few more candidates Jugoplastika eventually turned to Maljković who gladly accepted.
The appointment of a young and unproven head coach was not without critics at Split, including some within the club such as 19-year-old center Dino Rađa who openly talked to the press about his displeasure with the hiring of Maljković who in the young player's opinion "lacked head coaching experience".8 And it wasn't just Rađa questioning Maljković's coaching credentials because the quiet consensus around Split at the time was that Jugoplastika is a potent squad loaded with young talent and as such needs an experienced coach to provide leadership, not someone still learning his craft.
Jugoplastika ended the just completed 1985-86 league season in 6th spot (outside of the top four required to make the playoffs) following a turbulent campaign that started with Slavko Trninić as head coach, before he got the sack due to poor results early on and got replaced by Zoran Slavnić. Freewheeling Slavnić initiated a squad overhaul by bringing younger players into the first team (including great 17-year-old prospect — small forward Toni Kukoč who was equally adept at playing any other position) and giving them greater freedom on the court. This resulted in Jugoplastika ending the season with a 12-10 record that tied it with Šibenka and Partizan, however due to worse head-to-head record against the two teams it ended in 6th spot and out of the playoffs. Despite clear improvement since his arrival Slavnić still left at the end of the season.
The young 34-year-old coach Maljković thus took over a young squad with supremely talented Kukoč and Rađa as its biggest assets. Other prominent players on the team included 20-year-old shooting guard Velimir Perasović and 22-year-old center Goran Sobin. Several older players such as Ivica Dukan left the club that summer. Maljković's only summer acquisition of note was the 22-year-old point guard Zoran Sretenović from Red Star Belgrade where he wasn't getting much of a chance to play as backup to established national team player Zoran Radović; Maljković knew the player and his situation at Red Star well, having spent a year coaching him there. Liking Sretenović's character qualities and believing in his basketball skills, Maljković decided to give him a chance by bringing him in to be the team's main play maker, envisioning his role at Jugoplastika as main distributor on offense for Kukoč and Rađa. Maljković's decision to get Sretenović was second-guessed among the club's management who simply didn't know the player and were hoping for an established name.8
Under the tutelage of 62-year-old professor Nikolić who finished his coaching career and now acted as a coaching consultant, Maljković set about molding the obvious raw basketball talent this young squad possessed. In interviews with the local press, he identified lack of recognizable playing structure as the problem he wants the team to overcome. To that end, in stark contrast to the previous head coach Slavnić, Maljković insisted on strict discipline as well as frequent and exhausting training sessions, believing the sheer quantity of work put in will eventually yield results for Jugoplastika10 against its formidable Yugoslav League rivals such as reigning European champion KK Cibona led by 22-year-old Dražen Petrović, reigning league champion KK Zadar, young and up-and-coming KK Partizan, and experienced Red Star Belgrade. Maljković's first season in charge already provided some encouraging signs as Jugoplastika finished the league regular season with a 15-7 record, which was enough for the 3rd spot (behind 22-0 Cibona and 18-4 Partizan) and a playoff berth. In the playoff semifinal best-of-3 series Jugoplastika lost 2-1 to Duško Vujošević-coached Partizan led by youngsters Saša Đorđević, Vlade Divac, and Žarko Paspalj. In many ways the two teams mirrored one another - they both had young head coaches who both took over their respective teams in the summer of 1986 while both teams also had a variety of young talent on their respective rosters. Maljković and his Jugoplastika lost this battle to Vujošević's Partizan, but it would prove to be only the first of many in the years to come.
Over the summer 1987 off-season, Maljković identified a need for more experience on the roster in order to make a deeper playoff run. He thus brought in Duško Ivanović, experienced small forward from KK Budućnost who was about to turn 30. Young Jugoplastika starlets Kukoč and Rađa were selected by the Yugoslav national team head coach Krešimir Ćosić for EuroBasket 1987 where the team took bronze after losing to Greece in the semis. Later that summer the two were picked again for national team duty, this time by the under-19 national team coach Svetislav Pešić for the Under-19 World Championship in Bormio. Yugoslav youth team steamrolled over the competition, including the USA team, with Kukoč dropping 11 three-pointers on them from 12 attempts.
Coming back to Split for the club season start in the fall, team leaders Kukoč and Rađa were brimming with confidence and fitness. Jugoplastika started off the season tremendously, piling up wins in the Yugoslav League. Simultaneously, in Korac Cup, they easily made it to the quarterfinal group featuring CB Zaragoza, Hapoel Tel Aviv, and Pallacanestro Cantù, but lost all three of its away games for the 3-3 group record that wasn't good enough to progress to the semifinals. Back on the domestic league front, Jugosplastika continued its great run to finish the regular season 21-1.
Over the summer 1989 off-season, Maljković and club general-manager Josip Bilić faced a crisis over Rađa's status after the young center got drafted by Boston Celtics in late June. Under contract with Jugoplastika until 1992, the 22-year-old expressed willingness to join Boston right away "if the financial offer is good", but the Split club was adamant they would not release him.11 Maljković even publicly called on Yugoslav Basketball Association (KSJ) to adopt safeguard policies, preventing players younger than 26 from transferring to NBA teams.12 After weeks of wrangling over his status, Rađa tried to force Jugoplastika's hand by acting unilaterally - going over to the U.S. and signing a one-year contract with the Celtics, reportedly in the neighbourhood of $500,000.13 However, seeing the situation as a clear case of contract poaching by Boston and its GM Jan Volk, the Split club wouldn't give up the legal fight. They took the case to US courts that ruled in their favour in late September, prohibiting Rađa from playing for the Celtics14 thus forcing him to work out some kind of an agreement with Jugoplastika. In the middle of the Rađa saga, not knowing its outcome, Maljković did some contingency planning by bringing in 22-year-old Zoran Savić from Čelik Zenica who could play both the center and power forward positions. He also brought in point guard Petar Naumoski and power forward Aramis Naglić.
Starting the new season, as the reigning European champion, Maljković's team got invited to participate at the McDonald's Open in Rome in late October. Before the tournament, Maljković got presented with the European Coach of the Year award. The friendly tournament was also Maljković's first chance to coach against an NBA team as his Jugoplastika put up decent resistance against Doug Moe's Denver Nuggets featuring guard Fat Lever and veteran Walter Davis, losing 129-135 in the end.
After four spectacular seasons at Split, Maljković became one of the most sought-after coaches in Europe. He accepted FC Barcelona's offer, taking over in summer 1990. With four consecutive Spanish League titles behind them, Barça were looking for European success that continually eluded it. In fact it was Maljković's KK Split that knocked Barça consecutively out of two previous final fours (in the 1989 semifinal and in the 1990 grand final). With Maljković's arrival, the previous head coach Aíto García moved to an administrative role, becoming the club's new general manager.
Maljković's team did well to make the Euroleague final four, however they fell at the very last hurdle, losing to his former team KK Split. Later that season they failed to win the domestic league as well while Spanish King's Cup came as bit of a consolation.
Maljković started the 1991-92 season at Barcelona, but on 22 November 1991, fourteen games into the league season, he decided to resign.
Maljković wouldn't be without a head coaching job for long as barely just over a month later in January 1992, he took over Limoges mid-season. Led on the court by 32-year-old veteran Richard Dacoury, the team made the league playoffs final versus Pau-Orthez, but lost the series 0-2.
The summer 1992 arrival of 31-year-old veteran Michael Young as well as established point guard Jure Zdovc and power forward Jim Bilba set the club on an improbable run. Playing suffocating defense with low-scoring games, Maljković's Limoges ended up winning the French League and the Euroleague title. Drawn in a tough Euroleague round robin group with Dušan Ivković-coached Greek champions PAOK featuring fresh NBA arrival Cliff Levingston as well as holdovers Panagiotis Fasoulas, Ken Barlow, and Bane Prelević, Ettore Messina's eager-for-Euro-success Virtus led by freshly-arrived rising star Sasha Danilovic, Euroleague runners-up Joventut led by the Jofresa brothers and Jordi Villacampa, Maccabi Tel Aviv with veterans Doron Jamchi and David Ancrum, Vuelle featuring emerging star Carlton Myers and veteran Walter Magnifico, few gave modest-looking Limoges roster much of a chance. Throughout the season, they produced unbalanced scoring with Young usually getting more than 30 points per game along with a handful of others contributing with less than 5 points. Maljković received some flak for this playing style; Petar Skansi, the head coach of Benetton Treviso called him out for "playing anti-basketball" after their Euroleague final in April 1993.
In summer 1995 Maljković took the offer from Greek giants Panathinaikos, a club bankrolled by the pharmaceutical riches of the Giannakopoulos brothers — Pavlos and Thanassis — who invested heavily in search of elusive Euroleague and domestic league success. The club was coming off yet another season of disappointment as they finished second in the Greek League to bitter rivals Olympiacos, while the Euroleague Final Four semifinal loss, again to Olympiacos, came as an even more bitter pill.
Maljković's work was thus very clearly cut out for him, nothing less than the Euroleague or Greek League title, preferably both, would do. Taking over for head coach Efthimis Kioumourtzoglou, Maljković found a squad led by holdovers Panagiotis Giannakis, Fragiskos Alvertis, and Stojko Vranković, while the squad leader Žarko Paspalj left along with coach Kioumourtzoglou, both victims of the trophy-less season. However, the roster was about to get a big boost as the Giannakopoulos brothers managed to bring in 35-year-old NBA legend Dominique Wilkins to Athens, signing him to a two-year contract worth US$7 million. The arrival of Wilkins created a lot of buzz around the club as 5,000 fans greeted him upon landing at the Athens airport in September 1995. The next day some 13,000 fans turned out for his first practice. In the coach's first season at the club, Maljković's Panathinaikos won the Euroleague title, the club's first in its history.
Maljković coached Panathinaikos in the 1996-97 season to an 18-8 regular season record, which was enough for the 3rd spot that qualified it for the playoffs. However, as the playoffs were about to start the coach was let go on 13 April 1997 and replaced with Mihalis Kyritsis.
After leaving Real Madrid, a lot of speculation appeared about his next coaching job. In an interview with Sportski žurnal, he said that he had been offered the role of head coach of the Lithuanian League club Žalgiris, but that he would only take the job in the summer, after the season had finished. He also said that he received several other offers, but refused to disclose which clubs they were from. Finally, on March 9, 2007, he was unveiled as the new head coach of TAU Cerámica, replacing Velimir Perasović, who abruptly stepped down in mid-season, due to health reasons. Coincidentally, Maljković coached Perasović for four years at Jugoplastika Split.15
However, after a heavy 14 point loss in the 2007 Euroleague Final Four to Panathinakos, Maljković was criticized in the Spanish press, and a lot of speculation appeared about his future. During the off season, he and the club parted ways.
In the summer of 2011, Maljković also took over the Russian club Lokomotiv-Kuban. Although close to getting fired in November 2011, due to the club's position in the Russian League being way off expectations,1617 he was allowed to stay, leading the team to the final four of VTB United League.
He left at the end of the season in May 2012.
On 1 July 2012, Maljković was formally presented as new coach of Croatian vice-champions KK Cedevita.18 On November 20, 2012 he resigned as head coach, stating that he no longer had a will or desire to coach the team.19
- 2x Coach of the Year in Europe (1988–89, 1989–90)
- 2x European Coach of the Year awarded by FIBA Basket Magazine (1993, 1996)
- 3x Coach of the Year in Yugoslavia (1987–88, 1988–89, 1989–90)
- 2x Coach of the Year in France (1992–93, 1993–94)
Maljković is known as a disciplinarian coach, stressing work ethic, holding grueling and frequent practice sessions. His coaching philosophy is based on defense with repetition as the key ingredient during practices:
|“||Once you make it inside, pro basketball becomes a drill. It can be carefree fun in the beginning when you're prying a talented athletic kid away from other sports by only showing him the fun side of basketball, but afterwards it's hard drill. Any single move, say the left drive, requires between nine and eleven thousand repetitions in order to get it right. The defensive stance that we want the players to assume where your knees are constantly bent in an angle between 90 and 135 degrees isn't pleasant and comfortable. If it was, people would be walking around the street like that.20||”|
Maljković cites Aca Nikolić as the biggest professional influence and considers him "the best coach of all time, the best craftsman in our business".21 Out of respect for his mentor, Maljković campaigned in 2007 for the Belgrade Arena to be renamed "Professor Aleksandar Nikolić Arena".22 Although receiving public support from many influential individuals in Serbian basketball, the initiative was ultimately not implemented. Maljković also holds Ranko Žeravica in high esteem, considering him to be "the Dositej Obradović of Serbian basketball, making us basketball-literate".3
Upon taking over the young Jugoplastika team in 1986, Maljković explicitly forbid his players from celebrating baskets during games. Maljković said he didn't want his players "driving airplanes after three-pointers" citing reigning Euroleague champion and Yugoslav League rival KK Cibona's shooting guard Aco Petrović as a negative example in this regard. Instead, Maljković said he wanted his players to be "exemplary young men that no father in Yugoslavia would regret giving away his daughter to".
During his time at Panathinaikos, Maljković got a chance to coach former NBA star Dominique Wilkins as well as another prominent player from the NBA John Salley, brought in and given big contracts by the club's owner Pavlos Giannakopoulous. Maljković refused to modify his disciplinarian coaching style when it came to big name players, treating them in the same stern and strict manner he treated others on the roster, all of which led to numerous run-ins with both Wilkins and Salley. Reporting on this, the New York Times described Maljković as "likely to act less like Phil Jackson and more like Bobby Knight"24 while Sports Illustrated referred to him as "an austere Serb who believes in my-way-or-Yugo discipline".25
His often stated distaste for the NBA is also well known. In 2009, Maljković said:
|“||I'm not charmed by NBA basketball at all, and I'll tell you why. Firstly, scattered among 30-odd clubs in that league you've only got about 40 or so truly outstanding players. The rest are bit-part protagonists just adding to the glamour and spectacle of it all - I'm not even sure whether these support guys would even cut it in Euroleague. Secondly, the entire regular season is a walk in the park without intensity and without good defense. I'd rather watch, say, Cibona play Partizan anytime over any NBA game. To be fair, the level of play in the NBA increases once the playoffs begin..... But, in general, that whole NBA-patented system of putting the individual player ahead of the team is something I have deep problems with. I remember back when I coached Panathinaikos, my friend Ivica Dukan who at the time worked as a scout for Chicago Bulls brought Chicago's GM Jerry Krause to my house in Athens. Among various things we discussed, Krause told me that once Michael Jordan retires, basketball will become the 4th sport in the U.S., which to me seemed excessive at the time, but now I see that the man was completely right. They lost 25% of their overall TV audience, essentially because one guy retired. On the other hand they've got less and less good, truly sound players, and less and less head coaches who truly run their teams all because they keep insisting on this star-system, looking for the new Michael.26||”|
In August 2011, during the Eurobasket 2011 preparations, Maljković opened a public row with the Serbian Olympic Committee (OKS) president Vlade Divac, calling the former player a "fraudster and a liar" in Croatian sports daily newspaper Sportske novosti as a response to Divac's remark in Slovenian media that Slovenia would've been better off keeping Jure Zdovc as head coach instead of hiring Maljković.27 The coach expanded on his insults by saying: "Divac isn't even aware that I got the Slovenia job after Memi Bečirović, not after Zdovc. The journalist talking to Divac wasn't kind to him, ringing him up before noon. Considering Divac usually wakes up around 3pm, he was probably still delirious".27 When told of Maljković's comments, Divac refused to be drawn into name calling through the media, refusing to say anything more on the subject.28 However, Maljković wasn't done, responding to Divac's non-response with more insults and veiled accusations: "Divac crossed a line. Every so often he's got excesses like this one in the media. We're two different worlds. It's up to him now whether he wants to start in with me because I got an elaborate file showing what he's like. I'd only like to add one more thing to my original statement. Divac is a huge fraudster and a huge liar".29 The row even prompted 86-year-old Bora Stanković, the Serbian basketball's elder statesman, to register his displeasure publicly, scolding both sides.30
- Interview: Boža Maljković;Playboy, April 2011
- Maljković o nemaštini, kćerci, Kukoču, devojkama...;Politika, October 2009
- Maljković interview;RTS, January 2013
- Maljković interview;RTS, January 2013
- Maljković interview;RTS, January 2013
- Maljković at InfoSport;TVBN, May 2013
- Maljković@Nedjeljom u 2
- "Srpske sportske legende - Božidar Maljković". RTS. January 2013.
- Maljkovic@Nedjeljom u 2
- Coach Denies Yugoslav Will Join Celtics : But Lakers' Pick Will Be Permitted to Play in NBA;Los Angeles Times, 29 June 1989
- Calling for safeguards against NBA raids on its players, a...;Los Angeles Times, 30 June 1989
- Boston Celtics Sign Dino Radja;Los Angeles Times, 2 August 1989
- U.S. Court Bars Yugoslav Star From Joining Celtics;Los Angeles Times, 26 September 1989
- Maljković dobio otkaz;sportske,net, 11 November 2011
- Slovenci tvrde da je Maljković otpušten, Rusi demantuju;Blic, 11 November 2011
- Rupnik, Borna. "Maljković: "Hrvatska košarka mi je dala mnogo, a vjerujem i ja njoj"". Sportnet.hr. Retrieved 1 July 2012.
- http://www.krepsinis.net/eurolyga/b-maljkoviciaus-pasitraukimo-priezastimi-tapo-i-treniruote-neblaivus-atejes-m-tomasas/214711; krepsinis.net 22 November 2012
- Maljkovic@Srpske sportske legende;RTS, January 2013
- Poslednji čas sa Profesorom;Glas javnosti, 15 February 2000
- Profesor Aleksandar Nikolić je zaslužio da 'Arena' nosi ime po njemu;Blic, 9 February 2007
- Maljkovic@Nedjeljom u 2;HRT, 2009
- Retirement Follows Pay Disputes With His Greek Team: Ex-NBA Star Salley Calls It Quits;The New York Times, 26 October 1996
- No Longer La Dolce Vita;Sports Illustrated, 19 May 1997
- Maljkovic@Nedjeljom u 2;HRT, 2009
- Maljković: Divac je prevarant i lažljivac;Blic, 16 August 2011
- Divac o Maljkovićevim optužbama: Neka mu služi na čast;Blic, 17 August 2011
- Maljkovićeva dopuna: Divac je veliki prevarant i veliki lažov;Blic, 18 August 2011
- Bora Stanković: Zgrožen sam svađom Maljkovića i Divca;Blic, 19 August 2011