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Warriors honor late assistant coach Dejan Milojević with emotional tributes in first game back

The Warriors hosted the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday night in an emotional outing at the Chase Center

Emotions were running high at the Chase Center on Wednesday night.

The Golden State Warriors returned to the court on Wednesday when they beat the Atlanta Hawks 134-112, which marked their first game in nine days. The team had a pair of games postponed last week after assistant coach Dejan Milojević experienced a heart attack and died.

The Warriors all wore black shirts with the Serbian word, “brate” written across the front, which means “brother” in English. The Warriors also unveiled a new jersey patch that they’ll wear for the rest of the season that featured Milojević’s initials inside of a heart.

Warriors coach Steve Kerr addressed the crowd at the Chase Center ahead of the game.

“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 that he’s left on our organization the last three years … 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’s a part of our soul.”

In lieu of a moment of silence, Kerr asked the crowd for a standing ovation for Milojević. Then, after a pregame tribute, Warriors players all took off special Milojević jerseys they were wearing and placed them on a chair reserved for him on the bench.

The tribute left several Warriors players, including Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, incredibly emotional on the court.

The Golden State Warriors honored assistant coach Dejan Milojević during a ceremony before their game against the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday night.
The Golden State Warriors honored assistant coach Dejan Milojević during a ceremony before their game against the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday night. (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) (Ezra Shaw via Getty Images)

Milojević experienced a heart attack at a team dinner with the Warriors last week. He was hospitalized, and he died the next morning. He was 46. The league then postponed the team’s next two games.

Milojević played professionally himself for 14 years in Europe, first in his native Serbia and then in Spain, Montenegro and Turkey. He retired in 2009, and started coaching a few years later. He joined Kerr’s staff in 2021.

“Heartbreaking. Devastating,” Kerr said on Monday of the past week. “It’s just the saddest thing I’ve ever been a part of in the NBA. We lose someone who is so close to us, and then, more importantly, seeing his family suffer. This last week has been … full of all of the above.”

The Warriors, despite holding just a one-point lead at the break, surged ahead at the end of the third quarter before rolling to the 22-point win. Stephen Curry led the Warriors with 25 points and eight assists. Jonathan Kuminga added 25 points and nine rebounds off the bench while shooting a perfect 11-of-11. He matched the team’s franchise record for most field goals made without a miss, too, which was set by Chris Mullin in 1990. Klay Thompson added 24 points, and the team shot 56% from the field and just shy of 50% from behind the arc.

Dejounte Murray led the Hawks with 23 points, seven assists and seven rebounds. Jalen Johnson added 21 points, and Saddiq Bey finished with 18 points. The Hawks have now lost three straight. They’ll return home on Friday, where they’ll kick off a six game homestand against the Dallas Mavericks.

The win snapped a two-game losing skid for the Warriors, though it marked just their second win in their last six games. They now sit at 19-20, and will host the Sacramento Kings next on Thursday where they’ll attempt to get back to .500 on the season.

“It’s been a very long week for everybody in our organization, understanding how we wanted to pay, honor, tribute and celebrate Deki and what he meant to our family,” Curry said after the game on NBC Sports. “Having his family here, getting the celebration and reception from our fans, it’s tough looking over at his chair, but coach challenged us to kind of utilize all those emotions and get lost in the game. It was weird at first, but this is our sanctuary. The competition, we know Deki would love nothing more than to see us go out there and compete and have fun as best we can. It feels really good to get a win.”