The most successful combination of club and head coach in European basketball history came to an end this week when Zeljko Obradovic announced his departure from Panathinaikos Athens after 13 years. Obradovic arrived at Panathinaikos in 1999 and took the Greens to five Euroleague titles, starting in his very first season. They also won more continental trophies than any other European club since 1978. His five Euroleague titles with Panathinaikos alone make Obradovic the winning-most head coach in European history, and he won three more with as many different teams before joining the Greens.
Obradovic announced his arrival in Athens by winning the 2000 Euroleague title at the end of his first season. Panathinaikos defeated Maccabi Tel Aviv 73-67 in the final and added the Greek League shortly after. In 2001, the Greens lost out to Maccabi in the SuproLeague title. The following season Panathinaikos recorded an 89-83 victory in the 2002 Final Four against host Kinder Bologna. It remains the only Final Four title-game victory ever won on the floor of the other finalist. Obradovic and Panathinaikos returned to the Final Four in 2005, but missed the final with defeat against defending champion Maccabi. When Athens was chosen as the host city for the 2007 Final Four, the Greens came back in style to take the trophy again. Their thrilling 2-point win over defending champion CSKA Moscow is still regarded as one of the best games in basketball history. Panathinaikos went on to win their first triple crown - Euroleague, Greek League and Greek Cup titles.
In 2009, Panathinaikos took its title-game rematch with CSKA at the Final Four by fending off a late rally to win 73-71. In 2011, Obradovic and the Greens reached the Final Four had by beating defending champion Regal FC Barcelona in the playoffs before defeating Montepaschi Siena and Maccabi in the Final Four. It was their fifth and last Euroleague title together. Their bid this season came to an end with a 2-point loss to CSKA in the semi-finals. As well as his unparalleled success in the Euroleague, Obradovic led Panathinaikos to eleven Greek League titles, including ten successive titles until this season, and seven Greek Cup victories. Overall, they won 23 national titles in 13 years.
Obradovic issued an open letter to Panathinaikos fans, saying that "When I came in June 1999 to Athens to join Panathinaikos, I could not have imagined that this would be my team, my family, my home for 13 years. In these 13 years, we had many beautiful moments, many celebrations, but also difficulties. We were always together as a great and true family."
He goes on to thank everyone associated with his stay at the great club. “A big thank you to all Panathinaikos fans, who were always, always, always with us, because without their help we never would have succeeded. And of course a big thank you to all the players with whom I worked these 13 years. Together, the Giannakopoulos family, the Panathinaikos employees, the coaching staff, players and fans managed to make Panathinaikos a great club that is respected throughout Europe.”
Will the Greens bounce back to be title contenders at the Final Four in London next year. You can reserve your tickets for the Final Four now with Ticket2Final.com