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On March 4, 2006, BYU honored one the greatest to play basketball for the Cougars by retiring the No. 11 jersey of Kresimir Cosic. Cosic's family, friends and former teammates were on hand to witness the ceremony honoring the Yugoslavian native who succumbed to cancer in 1995.
Known as ‘the father of basketball’ in Croatia, Cosic joined Danny Ainge as the only other men’s basketball player to have his jersey retired at BYU.
President Thomas S. Monson, then a member of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 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 — who traveled with her daughter Iva and son Kresimir from Croatia to attend the event — was too overwhelmed to speak so Ana, who had 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 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-America 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.
CLICK HERE for more on the Cosic jersey retirement.
CLICK HERE for Cosic’s Cougar Club Hall of Fame bio.
CLICK HERE for Cosic’s Basketball Hall of Fame bio.
CLICK HERE for a Deseret News article about Cosic.
Remember When... Series
Every weekday from Oct. 15 to Nov. 11, BYUCougars.com will remember some of the great moments, players and events in BYU basketball history. A new installment to the series will be posted every weekday until the 2010-11 men’s basketball season opener against Fresno State on Nov. 12.