Credit: AFP – Scanpix
Credit AFP – Scanpix

On Friday afternoon, what was originally just a dream for Partizan Belgrade fans, became reality. The Serbian club officially announced the return to the bench by Zeljko Obradovic, the legend himself, who spent most of his playing career and started his managerial one precisely with Partizan, on a three-year contract.

Free throws this season

69%
11,8
Points made: 11,8
Accuracy: 69,0%
Place in standings: 20
Record max: 21
Record min: 3
Most made FTs: Rashawn Thomas

28 years after his last stint with Partizan, Obradovic is back. Probably one of the biggest stories ever for the Adriatic Basketball League.

Obradovic is not only considered as a legend by Partizan fans but also by every basketball enthusiast in Europe. He won everything at every level with Partizan, Badalona, Real Madrid, Treviso, Panathinaikos, Fenerbahce, and Serbian national team. After a year off following the end of his experience in Turkey, Obradovic was ready to come back and start a different type of experience.

After so many years, the decision to re-join Partizan Belgrade is the perfect example of what kind of human being Zeljko Obradovic is. He could have chosen a team with a higher budget, picking a more "comfortable spot" but he didn't. He decided to embark himself on a difficult mission, bringing back his old club to the highest level possible.

And especially after this last season it is not going be easy. The one that just ended was really a poor season for Partizan: three different coaches, limited results on the court, and a certain instability inside the front office.

It's no secret that after the departure of legendary coach Dusko Vujosevic back in 2015, the club has seen very limited success and has been through a lot of internal struggles. When Italian coach (but with Balkan roots) Andrea Trinchieri joined the team at the end of 2018, he was able to bring back some hope to the club and during the 2019-20 season, there was the feeling that Partizan was really close to returning to the Euroleague.

But then Covid-19 happened, the European season was interrupted, and Partizan couldn't finish what they started. Trinchieri then left to join German powerhouse Bayern Munich and Partizan went back to mediocrity.

But with the arrival of Zoran Savic as club's new GM, things have started to change. A figure with his kind of experience, both as a player and as an agent, understood that the first thing to do was recruiting a coach with a lot of experience and personality, a figure who could put the team back on track and help the environment in regaining some confidence.

Savic started to realize that the idea of bringing back Obradovic wasn't that unrealistic after all. The coach wanted to stay close to home this time after so many years spent between Greece, Spain, Turkey, and Italy. Plus, he felt like he needed a different type of challenge this time, something that could really turn his fire back on.

Credit AP – Scanpix

The first real contacts between the coach and the Serbian side started back in May, a source told BasketNews. Obradovic was immediately intrigued by the possibility but he also wanted to explore other options as well. But when the other options (mainly Valencia and CSKA Moscow, a source told BasketNews) turned out to be unavailable, Partizan Belgrade understood that the field was now open for them and they worked hard to convince the coach, showing him strong support and giving some financial guarantees that were needed to make the coach comfortable in taking the job.

And then, on Friday, the big announcement: the King was back in his reign.

Of course, even the most optimistic fans need to understand that the situation cannot change immediately. The roster is not exactly the strongest around and coach Obradovic will need some time to work his magic but the magnitude of the move is something that won't be forgotten soon.

Partizan budget for the next season is expected to be around 9-10 million euros. Guys like Zagorac, Mosley, and Thomas, are all under contract for next season and expected to stay and be an important part of the roster. Ognen Jaramaz, the New York Knicks draftee, is on an expiring deal and he's receiving strong interest from German side Bayern Munich and his former coach Andrea Trinchieri, according to sources.

Coach Obradovic is represented by big-time agency Wasserman and there's a general expectation that at least a couple of players represented by the agency will join the team, while, most likely, there'll be less involvement coming from Beobasket, the agency run by Misko Raznatovic.

Among the names on the shortlist of Partizan for this summer, there is Leo Westermann, who's expected to part ways with Barcelona, according to multiple sources, and Paris Lee, an American point guard who just had a pretty good season with Orleans in France. It's also safe to say that some other veterans will join the team and with guys like Vlado Micov and Nikola Kalinic hitting free agency, there might be something to keep an eye on in the coming weeks.

The ball is now in the King's court.

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