Golden State Warriors' veteran reflects on impact of brutally honest nice guy

Golden State Warriors v Milwaukee Bucks
Golden State Warriors v Milwaukee Bucks / Patrick McDermott/GettyImages

The Golden State Warriors face an incredibly tough period for the remainder of the season, not just because of their current standing in the Western Conference but more importantly due to the devastating loss of beloved assistant coach Dejan Milojević.

The 46-year-old died last week after suffering a heart attack while out for dinner in Utah with a host of fellow Warrior coaches and players. Golden State's game against the Jazz for the following night was postponed, as was their next game against the Dallas Mavericks.

Golden State Warriors' center Kevon Looney has shared memories and paid honour to cherished assistant coach Dejan Milojević

While trying to navigate through a hugely traumatic stretch, the Warriors returned to practice for the first time on Monday ahead of their meeting with the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday.

Head coach Steve Kerr spoke to the media after practice, describing the situation as heartbreaking, devastating and "the saddest thing" he's ever been a part of in the NBA. Milojević was in his third season as a Warrior assistant, having helped the franchise to a championship in his first year.

Milojević was perhaps best known for his work with big men, having been a power-forward himself during a 14-year playing career. He notably worked with Denver Nuggets' superstar Nikola Jokic, aiding in the fellow Serbian's rise to arguably the best player in the game.

It was only appropriate then that Golden State center Kevon Looney also spoke to reporters after practice, having worked relentlessly with Milojević over the past couple of years. The 27-year-old described his mentor as an 'extremely nice guy', but that he also "had a nice way of being brutally honest."

"I had the two best years of my career playing under his coaching… The things he taught me I’m going to continue to carry over and pass on to Trayce. He's worked with all of us...we're going to keep playing the right way and play the way he would want us to play. There's a lot of things I learned from him that made these last two years special. "

Kevon Looney on Dejan Milojević

After playing a pivotal role in the Warriors' 2022 championship, Looney enjoyed the best form of his career last season. Under Milojević's watch, the veteran center averaged career-highs in minutes, points, rebounds, assists, steals and field-goal percentage.

How the Warriors respond on the floor will be a fascinating watch come Wednesday night, but who could blame them if their focus isn't 100% on the job after the events of the last week.