On this day, 95 years ago, one of the world’s greatest basketball coaches was born. His name was Aleksandar Nikolić. He was The Professor.
Aleksandar Nikolić (1924-2000) was a professor at the University of Belgrade’s Faculty of Sport and Physical Education and that is where the nickname came from, but he was not teaching only at the University. He was a professor of all basketball lovers at that time.
Nikolić was a mentor of many world-class basketball coaches, such are Božidar Maljković, Dušan Ivković, Bogdan Tanjević, Želimir Obradović, etc.
His contribution to the development and growth of the regional basketball was so huge that he got another nickname – The Father of Yugoslav Basketball.
As a player, he competed for Partizan (1945–1947), Crvena Zvezda (1947–1949), Železničar Čačak (1949–1950) and BSK Beograd (1950–1951). He won the Yugoslav League in 1947, 1948, and 1949 with Crvena zvezda. Nikolić was a member of the Yugoslav national basketball team, during the late 1940s, playing 10 games.
But, his real fame started on the day he decided to become a basketball coach. He worked in several Serbian and Italian clubs, winning plenty of trophies along the way. Nikolić was also the head coach of the Yugoslav national squad, between 1951 and 1965, and later between 1977 and 1978. Under his leadership, Yugoslavia won the 1978 FIBA World Championship and 1977 FIBA European Championship; silver medals in the 1963 FIBA World Championship, 1961 FIBA European Championship and 1965 FIBA European Championship, and a bronze medal in the 1963 FIBA European Championship.
Nikolić was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1998, and into the FIBA Hall of Fame in 2007. In 2008, he was named one of the 50 Greatest Euroleague Contributors.
Today, the two most popular Serbian clubs Crvena zvezda mts and Partizan NIS are playing their games in the hall that carries the name of this legendary coach – Aleksandar Nikolić Hall.