Zeljko Pavlicevic has never been shy about accepting bold challenges.

He embraced the pressure of high-profile coaching jobs in Yugoslavia, Greece and Spain before setting foot in Japan in 2003 to lead the men's national team and plant the seeds of success for the future here in the run-up to the 2006 FIBA World Championship.

Numerous players from the Japan men's national team have led starring roles at the pro level since then. What's more, his former national team assistant, Tomoya "Coach Crusher" Higashino, is now the Japan Basketball Association's technical director.