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"Munich is a wonderful chapter in my career".

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Dejan Radonjic returns: the 52-year-old Montenegrin took over the Bayern Basketball team exactly four years ago and coached between April 2018 and January 2020, celebrating the 2018 and 2019 German championships with them. Just over a year ago, he started his second term at Red Star Belgrade after the successful phase between 2013 and 2017 (eight titles).

Before the eagerly awaited reunion in the Audi Dome at the last home game in the EuroLeague regular season against Roter Stern (April 1, 20:30./Audi Dome), here is a conversation with Radonjic about his time in Munich and the situation in the basketball metropolis of Belgrade.

TICKETS vs BELGRAD

Dejan, two years since you left Munich, what has remained of that time?

DEJAN RADONJIC: "The phase in Munich was a completely new experience for me at the time, because it was the first outside my home region. It remains: The stay in Munich was very nice and pleasant for my family and also for me personally. We achieved a lot of good things in terms of sports. And Munich as a city is exceptional, so returning there is nothing but a pleasure."

Are there things that you miss?

"We also have a tradition with good beer, but I really look forward to a cold Paulaner. We get it in Belgrade too, but a fresh one in Munich just tastes different. So of course I miss things, we lived in Munich for almost two years. But most of all there are friends I made there. Again, Munich was and is a wonderful and very important chapter of my athletic career and also for my life."

Before joining Bayern, you spent four years as a coach at Red Star before you wanted to make a change - but in the middle of last season you returned home. Is that where you function best?

"On the one hand, returning to Red Star was of course not a difficult decision, but a matter of the heart. I've experienced so many great and successful moments there, I've always felt very comfortable there - despite the enormous pressure there every day because of the high expectations. But that's just like Bayern and any other club with a big name and big ambitions. On the other hand, it's never easy to take over a team in the middle of the season, it has to be well thought out . . ."

. . . in Munich you even came a month before the playoff start . . .

". . . yes, and now we still had this difficult Covid19 phase. But we managed again to win everything. Also this season we have the big goal to defend again the domestic league and the Adriatic title. In the EuroLeague we have also improved and now we have already got more wins. If we stay healthy and without new injuries, I believe in even more."

To describe Red Star's fans as euphoric would be an understatement. Where does this enthusiasm come from?

"Red Star is the most popular club in Serbia. It is the oldest and the passion for this club is passed down in families as a tradition. Our fans are unique."

However, the rivalry with arch-rivals Partizan has reached a new level, as coaching legend Zeljko Obradovic has also returned home and represents the highest ambitions.

"His arrival at Partizan is definitely a big and important thing for basketball in Belgrade, in Serbia and in the whole Balkan region. The great rivalry between Red Star and Partizan has moved people for decades now. But that doesn't change our aspirations to finish this season in the best possible way as well."

Since the beginning of the year in particular, an upward trend has also been discernible in the EuroLeague.

"We had a lot of problems with injuries at the beginning, starting with the tournament in the Audi Dome when Aaron White got seriously injured. Then at the beginning of the year almost the entire team was in quarantine, which was a long, unplanned break. After that, we practically made a fresh start, and since we have a team with a lot of character that can work hard, things went up. It was and is certainly an advantage that I have worked with many of them before."

So Red Star is also back in the playoff race, which will make for a big game on Friday night.

"True. Despite the problems I mentioned, we've had a good season so far and now we even have the chance to keep going. As you know, I have a lot of respect for the Bayern team, the staff and the fans. I know it will be a very difficult task. I hope it will be a really good game that all fans will enjoy."

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