Are the Pistons looking to hire the ‘European Phil Jackson’ to fill their head coaching vacancy?



No, legendary NBA head coach Phil Jackson doesn’t have a European brother, at least I don’t think he does. I do know for sure though that Zeljko Obradovic, a name I’m sure every Pistons fan has heard of (sarcasm) ISN’T Phil Jackson’s Euro bro.

Obradovic  is one of the most successful and best European head basketball coaches often being referred to as the European Phil Jackson. His resume includes eight Euroleague titles with four different teams as well as the 1997 FIBA European Championship and the 1998 FIBA World Championship with the Serbian national team.

But what’s his connection to the Pistons? Apparently after Lawrence Frank made it clear he wasn’t going to be a lame duck head coach which eventually lead to his dismissal the Pistons look to have Obradovic on their radar to fill the vacancy left by Frank. In fact according to the Spanish site The Counter (via HoopsHype and Detroit Bad Boys who helps with the translation) the Pistons have already contacted Obradovic:

Important news in European basketball. For the first time a coach from Europe is a candidate to coach a franchise NBA next season. Zeljko Obradovic is right now in the slate of candidates to replace Lawrence Frank in Detroit. The list was reduced to two this weekend leaving an American coach and him.

[…] Obradovic’s arrival as coach Detroit Pistons will immediately open franchising to sound more European coaches in the future. If Pau Gasol led the influx of players from Europe, Obradovic may emerge as the architect for the European coach finally not see the NBA as inaccessible. […] The dilemma of Joe Dumars as may be historic decision for the development of basketball in the United States and here in Europe.

This though wouldn’t be the first time Joe Dumars (who seems to be on this final leg as Pistons GM) has been in contact with the impressive Euroleague head coach. Obradovic was apparently in Detroit observing the team during training camp in October and watched them in their overseas trip to London when they played the Knicks. This comes via an interview with El Juego de Naismith (via Detroit Bad Boys):

I’ll tell you one thing, I’ve been training in October watching the Detroit Pistons in the preseason and has been something really, really nice to me. Then I saw the first official match played at home against Houston and then invited me to the game they played in London. After this, the Copa del Rey de Vitoria was the next time that I have seen live basketball. On television, I have not seen more than half an hour, I do not see much, I’m totally disconnecting basketball, I see Euroleague games occasionally but never a full game. I follow him, I see a game of the ACB league, but never see it whole.

Keith Langlois of DetroitPistons.com also takes note of Obradovic’s presence in London observing the Pistons which is where we get the European Phil Jackson reference (via Detroit Bad Boys):

Coaching legend Zeljko Obradovic – he’s the European Phil Jackson, with eight European Championships under his belt at coaching stops in Yugoslavia, Italy, Spain and Greece – was in attendance with longtime assistant Dmitris Itoudis. They spent all of October in Auburn Hills observing the Pistons throughout training camp and preseason. Obradovic’s presence caused a stir among the European press. One reporter asked Austin Daye if he was prodding Obradovic for any tips.

“I’ve talked to him,” Daye said. “But I haven’t asked him for any advice.”

And if you don’t think Dumars is seriously interested, take this into consideration from Eurohoops:

When Joe Dumars was asked in London by Greek reporters of OTE TV channel if he would hire Zeljko Obradovic as his coach, Detroit’s president of basketball operations smiled and said: “He is the best coach in the world”. For many years, Zoc was loved – and still is – as god in Athens where he coach Euroleague powerhouse Panathinaikos and in his interviews he denied any interest to coach in the NBA.

That changed this year, as his longtime assistant Dimitris Itoudis convinced him to attend the training camp of Detroit. For many years Itoudis was present in the summer leagues as a Pistons’ collaborator, but this time he had himself in the states his longtime boss and close friend. It was kind of vacations, as he told Eurohoops, but it was also an experienced that change his mindset for the American league. He met again with Detroit, as a guest of the team in their London game in January.

Or this shot of Obradovic and Dumars together possibly talking about Pistons life after Lawrence Frank, pure speculation of course…


Hiring a guy like Obradovic would be a huge gamble for a GM that’s spent 8 of his 9 lives but in this case it could be different. Obradovic obviously has an impressive resume at the Euro level but doesn’t have the NBA experience. Still though he has NBA connections and a big one at that being friends with San Antonio Spurs head coach Greg Popovich who could give him a glowing endorsement if he decides to make that jump across the pond. Plus the Pistons at this point might not have much of a choice given some limited coaching options and lack of free agent appeal.

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