Monday March 19th, 2007

In his role as New Jersey's sixth man, Bostjan Nachbar is nothing if not efficient. The supersub is a whirling dervish on the court, whether it be bombing from behind the three-point line (39 percent for the season) or going hard to the hole (Nachbar has had several YouTube-caliber dunks this season). Nachbar has become an indispensable part of the Nets' rotation.

As a team executive, well, let's just say Nachbar is absentee.

That's not a bad thing, though. In addition to his duties in the Nets' frontcourt, Nachbar doubles as the president of Kosarkaski Klub Koper, a first-division team in the Slovenian Men's League based out of the city of Koper. He is the de facto face of the 40-year-old franchise despite spending most of his time living an ocean away.

Two years ago, while a member of the New Orleans Hornets, Nachbar, 26, negotiated a deal with Koper that gave him the right to run the team for three years. While Nachbar spends most of Koper's season Stateside (the NBA and Slovenian League's seasons coincide), Nachbar's father, Vlado, a former basketball coach, runs the day-to-day operations.

"Basketball in Slovenia isn't as big as it was six or seven years ago," Nachbar says. "My father and I want to make it big again, give kids an alternative to playing soccer."

As Nachbar points out, basketball has faded in Slovenia since the late 1990s, when NBA players like Nachbar, Toronto's Rasho Nesterovic and Charlotte's Primoz Brezec starred in the league. Growing up, Nachbar struggled with the politics of playing in his homeland, as the local teams (which have low operating budgets) clung to their talented players, refusing to let them sign more lucrative deals with powerful Euroleague teams.

"I know how hard it was for me," says Nachbar, whose brother, Grego, plays for the team. "With my team, I want to be just the opposite. I want to help these young kids develop so they can go on to bigger and better things."

The club has thrived under Nachbar. When he took over, Koper was floundering at the bottom of the First Division. Support was at an all-time low and the team was in danger of dropping into the country's Second Division, which happens automatically when a team finishes in last place. But with an operating budget of just over $200,000 (the highest budget in the league is $700,000), Nachbar has overhauled not only the senior team but also a junior, cadet and pioneer team that has players as young as 14.

"A lot of other teams pay a lot of money to older players then fold when they don't win," Nachbar says. "I didn't want that. I want to make sure the younger players get a chance to play."

His popularity in Slovenia has brought in sponsors, and Nachbar takes every opportunity in the offseason to meet with potential sponsors as well as the Koper mayor to drum up support. During the summer he travels back to Koper, where he recently built a house, and sits in on team meetings and occasionally scrimmages with the players. When the Nets' forward reports to NBA training camp in October, Vlado sends his son tapes of the team's games and Nachbar will follow the club's statistics over the Internet. The two talk basketball by phone several times a week.

"We make most of the decisions together," Vlado says. "Boki will look at the tapes and give me his opinion."

Nets coach Lawrence Frank, for one, isn't surprised Nachbar has made the conversion from player to executive.

"Boki is a smart guy," Frank says. "A lot of former players become general managers. I could see Boki in an NBA front office someday."

Nachbar's teammates are equally as supportive -- to a point.

"I know he would do a great job," Richard Jefferson says. "But if he asks me to suit up for his team, no way."

Nachbar says he will continue to run the team through the end of the year, when he will make a decision whether to stay on as team president. Surely a man who makes $2.5 million per season could use the extra paycheck, right?

"No money," Nachbar says with a laugh. "I do it because I love working with these kids. As long as their interest is there, I'll be there."

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