Vetislav Pesic’s Legacy Is Truly Extraordinary, and It Stands on the Precipice of Becoming Utterly Unique.

Svetislav Pesic's legacy is truly extraordinary, and it stands on the precipice of becoming utterly unique.

Vetislav Pesic’s legacy is truly extraordinary, and it stands on the precipice of becoming utterly unique.

Although he may now move with a touch more caution, the fiery Serbian head coach still exudes passion and intensity while patrolling the sidelines at the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023.

Remarkably, Pesic celebrated his 74th birthday just three days after the start of the 2023 World Cup. Should Serbia clinch the championship on September 10, he would etch his name into the annals of history as the oldest coach to lead a World Cup-winning team, surpassing the current record held by Mike Krzyzewski, who achieved this feat at the age of 67 in 2014.

Beyond the prospect of this record, Pesic could also draw level with Krzyzewski in another remarkable feat. Krzyzewski is one of only three coaches to guide their national teams to two World Cup titles, with his initial victory coming in 2010. The other two coaches to accomplish this are Togo Renan Soares (Kanela), who led Brazil to consecutive championships in 1959 and 1963, and the legendary Alexander Gomelsky, who masterminded the Soviet Union’s titles in 1967 and 1982.

Pesic’s illustrious career has witnessed numerous triumphs, including his coaching of Yugoslavia to the European Championships in the cadets (1985) and juniors (1986), as well as the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup in 1987, where he mentored basketball luminaries like Vlade Divac, Toni Kukoc, and Dino Radja.

A distinctive achievement in Pesic’s career is coaching two different countries to FIBA EuroBasket championships, achieving this milestone with Germany in 1993 and Yugoslavia in 2001. Furthermore, he steered Yugoslavia to their last World Cup victory in 2002 in Indianapolis.

Reflecting on the 2002 triumph, Pesic fondly recalled, “I will never forget Indianapolis 2002… Wonderful memories with a fantastic group of guys. What I remember the most was the homecoming party, from the airport to the city center in Belgrade, with our fans on the balconies. If I hadn’t experienced that, I would’ve missed out on an immense experience. The entire nation lived for our success.”

Simply having Pesic on the sidelines at a World Cup at the age of 74 leaves a lasting impression on his fellow coach, Argentina’s Sergio Hernandez, who stated, “He’s doing an incredible job. When you are that competitive, I do not care how old you are. What matters is what you do every day, your routines, your day-to-day discipline. He’s coaching during the season, he’s fit, he’s ready.”

Despite any physical limitations due to age, Pesic’s coaching acumen remains as sharp as ever. He introduced the team slogan “All for one and one for all” at the beginning of Serbia’s training camp, a testament to his enduring wisdom.

Serbia has excelled in the tournament, losing only one game and dominating their other five matches by an average of 20.0 points. This success is attributed to a highly disciplined defense and a dynamic, efficient offense – hallmarks of Pesic’s coaching style.

Italy’s 77-year-old assistant coach Carlo Recalcati praised Pesic, saying, “He’s a great coach. I like how his team plays. When you watch his team play, you don’t even need to know he is a coach to understand it’s his team.”

Hernandez echoed this sentiment, declaring, “Watching this Serbian team, you can tell this is a Pesic team. Defense, focus, the ball going in, going out, good shot selection. On all this, he is one of the best coaches in FIBA history.”

If Serbia accomplishes its mission and secures the championship, Svetislav Pesic will not only add another record to his remarkable legacy but also further solidify his place in basketball history as a truly unique figure.


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