Aleksandar "Aca" Nikolic

Known as the "father of Yugoslavian basketball," Aleksandar Nikolic spent his life teaching, coaching, and spreading basketball throughout Europe. In 1953, Nikolic took over the Yugoslavian national team, and just like that turned a nation with relatively little basketball history into a European force. In 1977, Nikolic led Yugoslavia to victory over Aleksandr Gomelsky’s powerful Soviet team in the finals of the European Championships, a remarkable upset. One year later, Yugoslavia again beat the Soviet team to take the gold in the World Championships. Nikolic's legacy extends beyond his winning teams. His grueling practices and coaching style with its five set plays, a sideline fast break, and eye-hand-chest defense, had other coaches emulating his techniques. Nikolic viewed coaching as a full-time profession and as such he dedicated all his time to his teams. He outworked other coaches and his scouting reports were impeccable.