Warriors honor late coach Dejan Milojević in emotional pregame ceremony


Jan. 25 (UPI) -- Coach Steve Kerr called for fans to provide a standing ovation that Dejan Milojević could "hear up in heaven" while speaking at an emotional pregame ceremony for the former Golden State Warriors assistant, who died last week.

Kerr spoke at the ceremony Wednesday night in San Francisco. The Warriors went on to beat the Atlanta Hawks 134-112 at Chase Center. Milojević suffered a heart attack and died Jan. 17 in Salt Lake City. He was 46.

The Warriors turned down the lights of their home arena, with players sporting Milojević's name on the backs of their jerseys. Others wore the Serbian word "Brate," translated to brother, on black shirts. The Warriors also played a tribute video, which included soundbites from Kerr, other coaches and players, speaking about Milojević.

Tears flowed from Warriors staff and players. Milojević's wife and children also sat in the stands during the emotional tribute.

"The world lost a beautiful soul last week," Kerr said. "Deki was a wonderful friend, a hell of a basketball coach, a great man and, most importantly, a beautiful grandson, son, husband and father.

"The mark he has left on our organization the last three years, you just saw the pictures, that was him every day. The smile, the joy, the laughter, it was ever present. What he meant to us was a huge part of who we are. He is a part of our soul."

Kerr also thanked people around the world for the "outpouring of support" following the news of Milojević's death.

"Rather than a moment of silence, I'd like for all of us to give Deki an ovation he can hear up in heaven," Kerr said.

Milojević had a medical emergency during a team dinner Jan. 16 in Salt Lake City, one day before the Warriors were scheduled to face the Utah Jazz. That game, and an additional contest against the Dallas Mavericks, was postponed as a result of his death.

Stephen Curry and Jonathan Kuminga each scored a game-high 25 points to lead the Warriors to a victory in their return to the court Wednesday in San Francisco. The Warriors made 56% of their shots, including 48.5% of their 3-pointers. Curry and fellow guard Klay Thompson made five 3-pointers apiece. The Warriors made 16 of their 33 attempts from downtown.

"It was tough," Curry said on the NBC broadcast. "It's been a very long week for everybody in our organization understanding how we wanted to pay tribute, honor and celebrate Deki and what he meant to our family.

"Having his family's tough looking over at his chair. Coach challenged us to utilize all those emotions and get lost in the game. It was weird at first, but this is our sanctuary. We know Deki would love nothing more than to see us compete and have fun as best we can. It feels good to get a win."

The Warriors (19-22) will host the Sacramento Kings (24-18) at 10 p.m. EST Thursday at Chase Center.