25 August, 2023
10 September
5 Nikola Jovic (SRB)
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Emotional Djordjevic proud of mark left on Serbian vets

MANILA (Philippines) - The start the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 was packed with emotions for Aleksandar Djordjevic as the China head coach was facing his native Serbia and coaching against players he helped mold and with whom he achieved massive success - all that on his birthday.

Djordjevic turned 56 on the night in which his China team were rolled by Serbia 105-63 in the teams' Group B opener. While the coach is trying to leave his mark on his new team in China, Djordjevic enjoys legendary status back home in Belgrade.

He helped Yugoslavia to the 1998 World Cup crown as a player as well as the silver medal at the 1996 Olympics while also winning FIBA EuroBasket in 1991, 1995 and 1997.


Djordjevic retired from playing in 2005 and after less than a season began his coaching career. He eventually took over the Serbian national team and turned them back into one of the biggest powers on the globe during his run as national team head coach from 2013 to 2019. They finished second at the 2014 World Cup, 2016 Olympics and FIBA EuroBasket 2017 and took fourth place at the 2015 EuroBasket and fifth at the 2019 World Cup.

Four members of the current Serbian team - Bogdan Bogdanovic, Marko Guduric, Stefan Jovic and Nikola Milutinov - played for Djordjevic on the Serbian team.

"He was amazing for us. All those years he coached us and all those years he played for the country. He's a legend for sure. But we are all pros so we are all trying to win. I'm just happy we won," said Bogdanovic, who played in all six of the major competitions during Djordjevic’s run.

Aleksandar Djordjevic and Bogdan Bogdanovic (No. 7) at the 2016 Olympics

"It was emotional for us. It was his birthday and again, happy birthday to Sasha. We talked in the hotel. But emotions have to stay off the court. Now we will sit and talk a bit more. But this is a professional game," said Jovic, who was part of the 2014, 2016, 2017 and 2019 teams.

"Sasha was my coach in the national team and at Fenerbahce, so we know each other well. He knows all the guys pretty well. He's such a legend, one of the biggest names in Serbian and Yugoslavian basketball history. It was great seeing him and competing against his team. And I wish the best of luck for Chinese basketball," added Guduric, a member of the 2017 and 2019 Serbian teams.

Aleksandar Djordjevic at the 2019 World Cup with Marko Guduric (No. 23) in the foreground

Milutinov was on the 2015 and 2019 Serbian teams.

Djordjevic afterwards admitted it was tough for him to watch the guys he helped bring up.

"It was an emotional game. Everyone knows where I am from and what I did with those guys. Most of them were selected and coached by me. I'm very proud about what I left and I'm very proud about how big they have become - as persons and as players. And I believe I had something to do with it because I gave them little bit about myself - my knowledge and my personality. I wish them luck. I hope they go all the way - as best as they can,” he said after the loss.

At the same time, Djordjevic insisted the opener was not just about Serbia for him - but also about his current team China. 

"For me it was a lot of emotions, but I tried to give my best for my guys right now. I love these guys who I work with every day and I tell them every day, love me like I love you," he said.

Djordjevic has already made his name with Serbia and now he is hoping to do the same in China.