Kresimir Cosic's No. 11 jersey was retired Saturday night in a special halftime ceremony.
PROVO -- BYU retired the No. 11 jersey of former Cougar great Kresimir Cosic Saturday night in an historic event at halftime of BYU's last regular-season men's basketball game. Cosic's family, friends and former teammates were on hand to witness the ceremony honoring the Yugoslavian native who succumbed to cancer in 1995.
"It is very impressive that Kreso is not forgotten here," said Cosic's wife Ljerka, through her daughter, Ana. "Kreso never forgot Provo. He loved his Croatia and always spoke of it as the most beautiful place on Earth, but Provo forever remained his second home. Provo and BYU marked his life and career."
Cosic's jersey was unveiled in a ceremony befitting his legacy as friends and family recounted not only the six-time All-American's incredible basketball career but also his love for his native country and his dedication to helping others achieve their dreams.
The ceremony began with a video presentation featuring highlights of Cosic's career as well as interviews with those who knew, played with and coached the father of basketball in Croatia. Emotions ran high as Cosic's wife and three daughters were presented to the season-high crowd of 20,732, who broke into chants of "Cosic" that shook the rafters.
Former teammate Steve Kelly, representing all of Cosic's former teammates, fondly recounted his playing days with the two-time All-American, calling the Cougars' second-leading rebounder and scorer all-time a guard trapped in a 6-foot-11 body. Former BYU coach Glenn Potter, who was an assistant during Cosic's first two years on the varsity team before taking the helm of the BYU program for Cosic's final season, also spoke on behalf of the coaching staff. He remembered Cosic turning down offers from the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics to return to his native country to play on the Yugoslavian National Team for just $250 dollars a week.
"To him, basketball was simply the means to a greater end of serving his Father in Heaven," said Potter. "He was a great man, a great basketball player and wonderful ambassador for his country and the Church."
President Thomas S. Monson, a member of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, then spoke of Cosic's dedication to the Church, recalling Cosic ducking to enter the door of Monson's office for interviews and translating the Book of Mormon into his native language.
"He was a wonderful basketball player, but he was a great man and server in the work of the Lord," said Monson."
The festivities concluded with a stirring message from Cosic's wife Ljerka, read by their daughter, Ana, on behalf of the family. Ljerka and her daughter Iva and son Kresimir traveled from Croatia to attend the event but was too overwhelmed to speak so Ana, who recently graduated from BYU, delivered her words. Cosic's jersey was then unveiled from the rafters on the west end of the Marriott Center to chants of "Cosic" from the crowd.
"Cosic was a great ambassador for both BYU and the game of basketball," said BYU Director of Athletics Tom Holmoe. "His accomplishments on and off the basketball court have impacted the lives of many worldwide. This honor is a well-deserved tribute to a great man."
Few players in BYU history have been able to capture the hearts of Cougar fans like Kresimir Cosic did from 1970-73. The 6-11 center from Zadar, Yugoslavia, entertained fans during his stellar career with his enthusiastic, guard-like play.
Whether it was leading the fastbreak, dribbling between his legs or shooting a sky-hook, Cosic's enthusiasm and on-the-court antics endeared him to almost everyone who saw him play.
During his career at BYU, Cosic used his versatile inside-outside game to lead the Cougars in scoring (23.3 points per game) and rebounding (12.8 rebounds per game) as a junior and again as a senior (20.2 ppg, 9.5 rpg). His unselfish attitude also helped him to lead his team in assists.
He ranks second on BYU's all-time rebounding list with 919, an average of 11.6 per game, and fourth all-time with a 19.1 career scoring average while recording a BYU-record 47 double-doubles. Behind the play of Cosic, the Cougars won two WAC titles and reached the NCAA Regional Tournament in 1971 and 1972.
Cosic was a three-time first-team All-WAC selection and earned All-American accolades following his junior season. He likely would have been a four-year award winner but freshmen were not allowed to play on varsity.
Upon graduation, Cosic became very involved with basketball throughout Europe. He played on four Olympic teams with his native land of Yugoslavia, winning a gold medal in 1980 and two silver medals in 1968 and 1976. He ended his career as the all-time Croatian scoring leader and went on to coach the Yugoslavian National Team for many years.
His national and international accomplishments led to his induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass., on May 6, 1996, making Cosic just the second Cougar to receive the prestigious honor, along with coach Stan Watts, and the only BYU player. He is also a member of the Utah Basketball Hall of Fame, inducted in 2001.
In September of 1992, Cosic was appointed as the Croatian Deputy Ambassador to the United States. He and his family lived in Washington D.C where he performed his diplomatic duties in the same excellent manner in which he played basketball.
On May 25, 1995, Cosic lost his battle against the toughest opponent of his career -- cancer. In the 46 years prior to his death, Cosic became one of the most influential and well-known of all European basketball players. He left behind the legacy and credit of being the individual that first introduced the American game of basketball to Europe.
During the 2005 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament, CBS Television analyst Billy Packer singled out Cosic during a discussion of the quality of international players now playing college basketball. Said Packer, "Kresimir Cosic, who played at BYU, was really the first great international player to play college basketball in the United States."
Below is a list of Cosic's accomplishments.
-- Second BYU men's basketball player to have his jersey retired, joining Danny Ainge.
-- Became the first foreign player to be named an All-American, receiving six different All-America awards as a junior and senior (1972 and 1973)
-- A three-time first-team All-WAC selection (1971-73)
-- Averaged 19.1 points and 11.6 rebounds in his three varsity seasons (1971-73)
-- Led the Cougars in scoring as a junior (23.3 ppg) and senior (20.2 ppg)
-- Led the Cougars in rebounding all three years (12.6 rpg as sophomore; 12.8 rpg as junior; 9.5 rpg as senior)
-- Finished his career as BYU's career leader in points (1,512) and rebounds (919) -- since surpassed by Cougars who played four years of varsity
-- Ranks second all-time in rebounds (919) and rebounding average (11.6)
-- Ranks fourth in scoring average (19.1) and 10th in total points (1,512)
-- Ranks second (30 in 1971 vs. Utah State) and fourth (27 in 1972 vs. Long Beach State) at BYU for points scored in an NCAA Tournament game
-- Averaged 15 rebounds in his four NCAA Tournament games
-- Holds BYU record for rebounds in an NCAA Tournament game (23 vs. eventual NCAA Champion UCLA in 1971)
-- Holds BYU record for single-game field-goal percentage (12-12 vs. Arizona in 1971)
-- Holds BYU record for double-double games (47)
-- Led the Cougars to two WAC titles (1971 and 1972)
-- Led BYU to the NCAA Regional Tournament (1971 and 1972)
-- Led BYU to final national ranking of No. 11 (UPI) and No. 20 (AP) in 1971
-- Led BYU to No. 9 final ranking (UPI and AP) in 1972, including a season ranking as high as No. 6 (AP)
-- Helped BYU earn records of 18-11, 21-5, 19-7 (58-23 overall)
-- His BYU career highs: 36 points (vs. Arizona) and 23 rebounds (vs. UCLA)
-- Cougar Classic MVP (1971)
-- Old Dominion Classic All-Tournament Team (1971)
-- All-College Tournament Second Team (1973)
-- WAC All-Decade Team
-- 3 National All-Star Teams
-- Drafted by Portland Trailblazers (1972) and Los Angeles Lakers (1973) but decided to return to Yugoslavia
-- Offered roster spot by Boston Celtics (1976-77 season) but again decided to stay in Europe
-- Played on four Olympic Teams, winning a gold medal (1980) and two silver medals (1968 and 1976)
-- Played on two World Championship Teams (1970 and 1978) and three European Championship Teams
-- Earned roster spot on Yugoslavia National Team at the age of 16
-- Named to All-European Team seven straight years
-- Ended playing career as all-time Croatian scoring leader
-- Once scored 61 points in a game
-- Coached Yugoslavia National Team
-- Mentored and coached some of first Europeans to play in the NBA (Drazen Petrovic, Toni Kukoc, Dino Radja, Vlade Divac, Stojko Vrankovic, Zarko Papalj)
-- Inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass., on May 6, 1996, making Cosic just the second Cougar to receive the prestigious honor, along with coach Stan Watts, and the only BYU player.
-- Inducted into the Utah Basketball Hall of Fame in 2001
-- Appointed Croatia's Deputy Ambassador to the United States in 1992
-- Served as Croatia's Acting Ambassador to the United States in 1994
-- Born Nov. 26, 1948 in Zadar, Yugoslavia
-- Passed away, May 25, 1995 in Baltimore, Maryland
Click here to read quotes from Kresimir Cosic's jersey retirement ceremony