After leading an unheralded team from one of the smallest places on the 7DAYS EuroCup map all the way to the title, Zvezdan Mitrovic of AS Monaco has been named the competition's Coach of the Year for the 2020-21 season.
Mitrovic, 51, was chosen by Euroleague Basketball from among many deserving candidates after he guided Monaco to its first EuroCup trophy in a 2-0 finals sweep against UNICS Kazan of Russia. That result followed a semifinals sweep of Herbalife Gran Canaria after Monaco had aced the last two games of the quarterfinals to outlast Buducnost VOLI Podgorica. With that season-ending six-game streak, coupled with a first-place finish in its Top 16 group, Monaco won 11 of its final 13 games to finish with a 17-6 record.
Monaco's winning formula was familiar to followers of Mitrovic, whose team ranked high in several hustle categories, including pulling the most offensive rebounds (350) in competition history and ranking second in average steals (8.4) this season. Monaco also held opponents to a league-low performance index rating of 76.5 per game.
The Coach of the Year honor is among several awards that recognize the finest EuroCup participants for their efforts throughout the season. Aleksander Balcerowski of Herbalife Gran Canaria was named Rising Star Trophy winner for this season. Fan voting and Euroleague Basketball's in-house experts selected the All-7DAYS EuroCup teams, as well as the 7DAYS EuroCup MVP, which went to Jamar Smith of UNICS.
Mitrovic began his head coaching career by leading teams in Ukraine for 10 seasons between 2002 and 2014. He helped Khimik Yuzhny win the Ukrainian League title in 2009 and lifted the Ukrainian Cup trophy with Budivelnik Kiev in 2012. Mitrovic first joined Monaco in March of 2015 and led its promotion to the French first division later that season. Once in the French elite, Mitrovic immediately turned Monaco into a force, winning three consecutive French Leaders Cup trophies and ranking first after the French League regular season in 2016, 2017 and 2018. After helping Monaco finish third in the FIBA Basketball Champions League in 2017 and second in 2018, Mitrovic left to coach LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne for two seasons. They won the French League title in 2019, downing Monaco 3-2 in the finals, and also lifted the French Cup trophy. He led ASVEL to a 10-18 record in the 2019-20 Turkish Airlines EuroLeague before that season's ending was suspended and finally canceled due to the global pandemic. Mitrovic has also coached the Montenegrin national team.
In Mitrovic's return this season, Monaco won six of its first eight EuroCup Regular Season games to qualify for the Top 16, then opened the new phase with a resounding 65-93 road victory against Nanterre 92. Next, Monaco beat mighty Unicaja Malaga 90-71 en route to winning its group with a 5-1 record that was worth home-court advantage in the quarterfinals and semifinals. Monaco's last-second Game 1 to Buducnost in those quarterfinals put its back against the wall, but Mitrovic's team responded beautifully, winning Game 2 on the road and finishing the job at home.
Monaco went on to sweep the semifinals against Gran Canaria, which came with the prize of eligibility for next season's EuroLeague, and repeated that feat in the finals against UNICS, winning both deciding games in those series coming on the road. The fact that Monaco won its last five games by five points or less says it all about the team's resilience and how Mitrovic made the difference with his tactics. Two series-winning inbounds plays – Rob Gray's turnaround buzzer-beater in the semifinals and J.J. O'Brien's go-ahead three-point play with 10.5 seconds left in the finals – highlight Mitrovic's great choices in crunch time.
Mitrovic is the EuroCup's first Coach of the Year from Montenegro. The previous winners were Oktay Mahmuti of Benetton Basket in 2009, Ilias Zouros of Panellinios in 2010, Aleksandar Petrovic of Cedevita Zagreb in 2011, Jure Zdovc of Spartak St. Petersburg in 2012, Fotis Katsikaris of Uxue Bilbao Basket in 2013, Andrea Trinchieri of Unics Kazan in 2014, Maurizio Buscaglia of Dolomiti Energia Trento in 2016, Pedro Martinez of Valencia Basket in 2017 and Sasa Obradovic of Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar in 2018. Aito Garcia Reneses is the only coach to win the award twice – with Gran Canaria in 2015 and ALBA Berlin in 2019.