|19 July 2011|
By Jeff Taylor
|Toni Kukoc might look like an intellectual and try to pass as a golfer nowadays, but the Croatia national team are doing their best to remind him he was one of the greatest players in the history of basketball|
Josip Vrankovic remembers his days as a Croatia player, and his teammate that seemed to be able to do anything he wanted to do on the basketball court.
That teammate was Toni Kukoc.
Croatia have had some great ones over the years, and 2.11m forward Kukoc was one of them.
He could dribble, pass and score.
The talisman in the Yugoplastika Split sides that captured EuroLeague titles in 1989, '90 and '91, Kukoc then wowed the crowds at Treviso in Italy from 1991-93 before crossing the Atlantic and doing the same with the Chicago Bulls for several years, winning three NBA crowns from 1996-98.
Kukoc was a national team hero, too, clinching Olympic silver in 1988 with Yugoslavia and then 1992 with Croatia.
With Vrankovic, Kukoc played for Croatia at the 1994 FIBA World Championship, 1995 and 1999 European Championships and the 1996 Olympics.
So when Vrankovic, who is now the coach of Croatia's national team, is asked why Kukoc is involved with Croatia's preparations in Osijek for EuroBasket 2011 in Lithuania, he responds quickly.
"This happened last year and this year," Vrankovic said to Basketball World News.
"We played together and have good relations, so I wanted him to work with us and show our young players some of his philosophy to help them because he did everything in basketball.
"I want them to see what his kind of basketball is."
Vrankovic believes Kukoc's presence will only benefit the young squad before it plays in Lithuania.
"We talk about everything and then we work on the court and he (Kukoc) shows some moves and I think they follow him," Vrankovic said.
"Obviously they respect him, so it's really good."
Vrankovic and Kukoc have a lot in common.
They hail from Split and played basketball at a very high level and with Croatia.
What they do not have is a shared interest in is golf.
Since his basketball playing days ended in 2006 with the Milwaukee Bucks, Kukoc has become a very good golfer.
So good, in fact, that he only just became the amateur champion of Croatia.
"He took the Croatian Championship just a few days ago," Vrankovic said with a mixture of pride and amazement.
"He has talent."
Might Vrankovic hold national team discussions with Kukoc during 18 holes?
Vrankovic laughed and said: "I don't play golf."