Maljkovi? coaching Slovenia at EuroBasket in September 2011.
April 20, 1952 |
Oto?ac, PR Croatia, FPR Yugoslavia
|1982||KK Lifam Stara Pazova|
|1983-1986||Crvena zvezda (assistant)|
|Career highlights and awards|
As head coach:
He is one of the most successful basketball coaches in Europe, having won league titles with practically all the clubs he trained; including four Euroleague titles with three different clubs (Jugoplastika, Limoges, and Panathinaikos). In 2008, he was named one of the 50 Greatest Euroleague Contributors.
Born in Oto?ac within the region of Lika, Maljkovi?'s family moved to Kraljevo when he was eight and in that time he set a record for crossing a road distance from Kraljevo to Vrnjacka Banja in less than 30 minutes with some old rusty bike.
He took up basketball at the age of 12, playing the shooting guard position at KK Sloga. Assessing his own playing skills, Maljkovi? later said: "I had a decent shot, but no defensive skills. As a coach I would never pick Maljkovi? the player in any serious team".
Having ended his playing career prematurely at only 19 years of age, Maljkovi? immediately began coaching at KK Ue, newly established basketball club in the eponymous Belgrade neighbourhood. Maljkovi? is among the four people who founded the club in 1971 on the initiative of local communist authorities from the New Belgrade municipality. Reportedly, the catalyst to set up a new community-based basketball outfit was the gruesome murder that occurred within a family living in the Ue neighbourhood when a father murdered his own son; the shock throughout the community prompted the local authorities into establishing a basketball club in order to provide the neighbourhood youngsters with a creative outlet. The murder came on the heels of general increase in criminality in the 12,000-resident Ue local community that mostly consisted of recently arrived families of the Yugoslav People's Army officers and personnel from all over SFR Yugoslavia; this local spike in crime only sped up the process of establishing a basketball club as means of channeling the energy of the local youth into something positive.
Maljkovi?, himself a young man, began coaching the club in 1971. In parallel to coaching basketball, Maljkovi? enrolled at the University of Belgrade's Faculty of Law though he never graduated. Working in extremely modest circumstances without regular access to a gym and with mostly outdoor practices in Ue park, the club still managed to gain multiple promotions and jump several ranks of competition.
In 1977 Maljkovi? took the offer of coaching in the Crvena zvezda youth system, becoming head coach of the club's junior team.
In 1979, noticing Maljkovi?'s dedication and enthusiasm both at Ue and Red Star, established head coach Bata ?or?evi? invited the 27-year-old across town to be his assistant at Radni?ki Belgrade, another Belgrade club that much like KK Ue started out as a community-based operation in the city neighbourhood of Crveni Krst. Seeing Radni?ki had been playing in the First Federal League (top tier on the Yugoslav basketball pyramid), Maljkovi? jumped at the opportunity. The club was also only six years removed from its biggest success -- 1973 national league title. In the years following their domestic title, they additionally put together memorable European campaigns, reaching the 1973-74 FIBA European Champions Cup semifinal as well as 1976-77 FIBA European Cup Winner's Cup final. Despite being in constant shadow of the city giants Crvena zvezda and Partizan, Radni?ki nevertheless managed to carve out a place for itself on the Yugoslav basketball map, establishing an identity of a scrappy small club regularly punching above its weight.
In Maljkovi?'s first season at Radni?ki as ?or?evi?'s assistant, the club finished with a 9-13 record, placing 10th in the 12-team league thus barely avoiding relegation. It also experienced major budgetary problems with its main financial backers, state-owned Fabrika odlivaka Beograd (FOB, iron foundry factory), cutting their sponsorship. At one point Maljkovi?, who temporarily quit his law studies, said he did not receive a salary for five months.
Continual financial struggles at the club affected it in various ways and during summer 1980 head coach ?or?evi? left. Young Maljkovi? became his replacement, admitting to getting the position "not because I was somehow the best fit to lead this particular team, but simply because nobody else wanted the job". Playing their home games at Hala sportova, his debut season as head coach in the First League brought no improvement for the club that finished with identical 9-13 record, good for 9th place this time. Maljkovi?'s Radni?ki, however, directly influenced the title race by beating Cibona late in the season (handing Cibona only its third loss that season) thus enabling their Hala co-tenants Partizan to take the championship by catching up to Cibona's 19-3 record and overtaking it at the top of the table due to better head-to-head record (this was before the playoff system was introduced in the league).
Maljkovi? stayed for the 1981-82 season as well, leading Radni?ki one more time to its now customary 9-13 record. At the end of the season, the club saw another big exodus of its players and staff, including Maljkovi?, due to more sponsors backing out.
Summing up his time with Radni?ki, in 2013 Maljkovi? expressed "certain sadness all these years later due to feeling I could've done more with that team, something like what I managed with Jugoplastika later, but on a smaller scale, because we had a very talented group of young players along with some older ones".
After Radni?ki, during summer 1982 Maljkovi? took a head coaching offer from KK Lifam, a club from Stara Pazova playing in the Yugoslav First B League, the country's second-tier competition.
He remained living in Belgrade and would drive out to Stara Pazova every morning for practices.
With a bit of a coaching CV now behind him, Maljkovi? was approached in early 1983 by Crvena zvezda about joining their coaching staff as assistant to legendary coach Ranko ?eravica in addition to an offer of simultaneously leading the club's youth system. He took the job largely due to ?eravica's clout and authority in Yugoslav basketball despite advice from some colleagues who felt that taking an assistant job after being a head coach in the First League was a step backwards career-wise.
Maljkovi?'s big head coaching break would come at Jugoplastika, where he arrived in early summer 1986 on recommendation from Yugoslav basketball's universally revered elder statesman Aca Nikoli? who having just recently retired from active coaching took on an advisory role with the Split club. The young assistant coach was not the club's first choice as they initially wanted Vlade ?urovi?, the hottest coaching commodity in Yugoslav basketball at the time having just led Zadar to the league championship. In demand ?urovi?, however, turned down the head coaching offer from Split, choosing the one from Crvena zvezda instead so after unsuccessfully courting a few more candidates Jugoplastika eventually turned to Maljkovi? who gladly accepted.
The appointment of a young and unproven head coach was not without critics at Split, including some within the club such as 19-year-old center Dino Ra?a who openly talked to the press about his displeasure with the hiring of Maljkovi? who in the young player's opinion "lacked head coaching experience". And it wasn't just Ra?a questioning Maljkovi?'s coaching credentials because the quiet consensus around Split at the time was that Jugoplastika is a potent squad loaded with young talent and as such needs an experienced coach to provide leadership, not someone still learning his craft.
Jugoplastika ended the just completed 1985-86 league season in 6th spot (outside of the top four required to make the playoffs) following a turbulent campaign that started with Slavko Trnini? as head coach, before he got the sack due to poor results early on and got replaced with Zoran Slavni?. Freewheeling Slavni? initiated a squad overhaul by bringing younger players into the first team (including great 17-year-old prospect - small forward Toni Kuko? who was equally adept at playing any other position) and giving them greater freedom on the court. This resulted in Jugoplastika ending the season with a 12-10 record that tied it with ?ibenka and Partizan, however due to worse head-to-head record against the two teams it ended in 6th spot and out of the playoffs, still good for a Kora? Cup berth next season. Despite clear improvement since his arrival Slavni? still left at the end of the season.
The young 34-year-old coach Maljkovi? thus took over a young squad with supremely talented Kuko? and Ra?a as its biggest assets. Other prominent players on the team included 20-year-old shooting guard Velimir Perasovi? and 22-year-old center Goran Sobin. Several older players such as Ivica Dukan left the club that summer. Maljkovi?'s only summer acquisition of note was the 22-year-old point guard Zoran Sretenovi? from Crvena zvezda where he wasn't getting much of a chance to play as backup to established national team player Zoran Radovi?; Maljkovi? knew the player and his situation at Red Star well, having spent a year coaching him there. Liking Sretenovi?'s character qualities and believing in his basketball skills, Maljkovi? decided to give him a chance by bringing him in to be the team's main play maker, envisioning his role at Jugoplastika as main distributor on offense for Kuko? and Ra?a. Maljkovi?'s decision to get Sretenovi? was second-guessed among the club's management who simply didn't know the player and were hoping for an established name.
Under the tutelage of 62-year-old professor Nikoli? who finished his coaching career and now acted as a coaching consultant, Maljkovi? set about molding the obvious raw basketball talent this young squad possessed. In interviews with the local press, he identified lack of recognizable playing structure as the problem he wants the team to overcome. To that end, in stark contrast to his predecessor Slavni?, Maljkovi? insisted on strict discipline as well as frequent and exhausting training sessions, believing the sheer quantity of work put in will eventually yield results for Jugoplastika against its formidable Yugoslav League rivals such as reigning European champion Cibona led by 22-year-old Dra?en Petrovi?, reigning league champion Zadar, young and up-and-coming Parizan, and experienced Crvena zvezda. Maljkovi?'s first season in charge already provided some encouraging signs as Jugoplastika finished the league regular season with a 15-7 record, which was enough for the 3rd spot (behind 22-0 Cibona and 18-4 Partizan) and a playoff berth.
The season in Europe was not as promising. Drawn in a round robin group with Olympique Antibes, Divarese Varese, and FC Barcelona, Jugoplastika managed only two wins in its six games, finishing last and getting eliminated from the 1986-87 FIBA Kora? Cup at the very first hurdle.
Back in the Yugoslav league, in the playoff semifinal best-of-3 series Jugoplastika lost 2-1 to Du?ko Vujo?evi?-coached Partizan led by youngsters Sa?a ?or?evi?, Vlade Divac, and ?arko Paspalj. In many ways the two teams mirrored one another - they both had young head coaches who both took over their respective teams in the summer of 1986 while both teams also had a variety of young talent on their respective rosters. Maljkovi? and his Jugoplastika lost this battle to Vujo?evi?'s Partizan, but it would prove to be only the first of many in the years to come.
During the summer 1987 off-season, Maljkovi? identified a need for more experience on the roster in order to make a deeper playoff run. He thus brought in Du?ko Ivanovi?, experienced small forward from Budu?nost who was about to turn 30. Young Jugoplastika starlets Kuko? and Ra?a were selected by the Yugoslav national team head coach Kre?imir ?osi? for EuroBasket 1987 where the team took bronze after losing to Greece in the semis. Later that summer the two were picked again for national team duty, this time by the under-19 national team coach Svetislav Pe?i? for the Under-19 World Championship in Bormio. Yugoslav youth team steamrolled over the competition, including the USA team, with Kuko? dropping 11 three-pointers on them from 12 attempts.
Coming back to Split for the club season start in the fall, team leaders Kuko? and Ra?a were brimming with confidence and fitness. Jugoplastika started off the season tremendously, piling up wins in the Yugoslav League. Simultaneously, in Kora? Cup, they easily made it to the quarterfinal group featuring CAI Zaragoza, Hapoel Tel Aviv, and Arexons Cantù, but lost all three of its away games for the 3-3 group record that wasn't good enough to progress to the semifinals. Back on the domestic league front, Jugosplastika continued its great run to finish the regular season 21-1.
During summer 1988, Maljkovi? brought in 20-year-old Luka Pavi?evi? from Cibona.
During the summer 1989 off-season, Maljkovi? and club general-manager Josip Bili? faced a crisis over Ra?a's status after the young center got drafted by Boston Celtics in late June. Under contract with Jugoplastika until 1992, the 22-year-old expressed willingness to join Boston right away "if the financial offer is good", but the Split club was adamant they would not release him. Maljkovi? even publicly called on Yugoslav Basketball Association (KSJ) to adopt safeguard policies, preventing players younger than 26 from transferring to NBA teams. After weeks of wrangling over his status, Ra?a tried to force Jugoplastika's hand by acting unilaterally -- flying over to the U.S. and signing a one-year contract with the Celtics, reportedly in the neighbourhood of $500,000. However, seeing the situation as a clear case of contract poaching by Boston and its GM Jan Volk, the Split club wouldn't give up the legal fight. They took the case to US courts that ruled in their favour in late September, prohibiting Ra?a from playing for the Celtics thus forcing him to work out some kind of an agreement with Jugoplastika. In the middle of the Ra?a saga, not knowing its outcome, Maljkovi? did some contingency planning by bringing in 22-year-old Zoran Savi? from ?elik Zenica who could play both the center and power forward positions. He also brought in point guard Petar Naumoski and power forward Aramis Nagli?.
Starting the new season, as the reigning European champion, Maljkovi?'s team got invited to participate at the McDonald's Open in Rome in late October. Before the tournament, Maljkovi? got presented with the European Coach of the Year award. The friendly tournament was also Maljkovi?'s first chance to coach against an NBA team as his Jugoplastika put in a great effort against Doug Moe's Denver Nuggets featuring small forward Alex English, guard Fat Lever, and veteran Walter Davis, losing 129-135 in a run-and-gun contest.
After four spectacular seasons at Split, Maljkovi? became one of the most sought-after coaches in Europe. He accepted FC Barcelona's offer, taking over in summer 1990. With four consecutive Spanish League titles behind them, Barça were looking for European success that continually eluded it. In fact, it was Maljkovi?'s Jugoplastika that knocked Barça consecutively out of two previous Final Fours (1989 semifinal and 1990 final). With Maljkovi?'s arrival, the previous head coach Aíto García moved to an administrative role, becoming the club's new general manager.
The relationship between new head coach Maljkovi? and new general manager Aíto was fraught from the very beginning. Barça ended up with a fairly thin roster consisting of a few experienced players such as Audie Norris, Steve Trumbo, Nacho Solozábal, and Epi as well as a slew of youngsters like José Luis Galilea, Roger Esteller, Ángel Almeida, and Lisard González, most of them called up from the club's youth system. Maljkovi? also got a club-assigned assistant Manolo Flores.
Maljkovi?'s team did well to make the Euroleague final four, however they fell at the very last hurdle, losing to his former team Pop 84. Later that season they failed to win the domestic league as well while Spanish King's Cup came as bit of a consolation.
In a 2015 interview, talking about his 1990-91 season at Barça, Maljkovi? discussed the tension within the club's front office:
|"||They left me with a very weak roster. And it was weak due to Aíto García consciously deciding to make it weak because he wanted to show no one other than himself could coach Barça. Coming into the club, I had my doubts whether he'd be collegial and sure enough he wasn't. He sold Ferran Martínez to Joventut and in doing so strengthened our biggest league rival. Quim Costa left the club much the same way. I also coached the team the entire season without having Andrés Jiménez at my disposal because he decided, upon suggestions from club management, to go have knee cleaning surgery even though he didn't have to and thus missed the whole season...... From his newly assumed general manager position, Aíto also influenced club president Josep Lluís Núñez and Salvador Alemany not to sign off on the Toni Kuko? transfer, which I had previously arranged with even a pre-contract signed and sealed. Then, when the Kuko? transfer fell through, I told them I wanted ?arko Paspalj, but Aíto again came up with some lame excuse why that's not possible either.... I mean, it was obstruction every step of the way.... Then I staged a bit of a revolt by taking this absurdity to the very extreme and deciding to play the season with junior players and finally I did basically end up with a bunch of kids on the roster.... Just a few weeks ago, Manolo Flores, my assistant from my days as Barça's head coach, phoned me to tell me about being at a club function where they went down memory lane by having giant team photos of all Barça rosters throughout history on display, and he told me that the 1990-91 roster elicited most laughs amongst the gathered crowd of Barça players past and present.||"|
Maljkovi? started the 1991-92 season at Barcelona, but on 22 November 1991, fourteen games into the league season, he decided to resign.
Maljkovi? wouldn't be without a head coaching job for long as barely just over a month later in January 1992, he took over Limoges mid-season. Led on the court by 32-year-old veteran Richard Dacoury, the team made the league playoffs final versus Pau-Orthez, but lost the series 0-2.
The summer 1992 the arrival of 31-year-old veteran Michael Young as well as established Slovenian point guard Jure Zdovc from Knorr Bologna and power forward Jim Bilba set the club on an improbable run. Playing suffocating defense with low-scoring games, Maljkovi?'s Limoges ended up winning the French League and the Euroleague title. Drawn in a tough Euroleague round robin group with Du?an Ivkovi?-coached Greek champions PAOK featuring fresh NBA arrival Cliff Levingston as well as holdovers Panagiotis Fasoulas, Ken Barlow, and Bane Prelevi?, Ettore Messina's eager-for-Euro-success Knorr Bologna led by freshly-arrived rising star Sasha Danilovic, Euroleague runners-up Joventut Marbella led by the Jofresa brothers and Jordi Villacampa, Maccabi Electra with veterans Doron Jamchi and David Ancrum, Scavolini Pesaro featuring emerging star Carlton Myers and veteran Walter Magnifico, few gave modest-looking Limoges roster much of a chance. Throughout the season, they produced unbalanced scoring with Young usually getting more than 30 points per game along with a handful of others contributing with less than 5 points. Maljkovi? received some flak for this playing style; Petar Skansi, the head coach of Benetton Treviso called him out for "playing anti-basketball" after their Euroleague final in April 1993.
In summer 1995, Maljkovi? took the offer from Greek giants Panathinaikos, a club bankrolled by the pharmaceutical riches of the Giannakopoulos brothers - Pavlos and Thanassis - who invested heavily in search of elusive Euroleague and domestic league success. The club was coming off yet another season of disappointment as they finished second in the Greek League to bitter rivals Olympiacos, while the Euroleague Final Four semifinal loss, again to Olympiacos, came as an even more bitter pill.
Maljkovi?'s work was thus very clearly cut out for him, nothing less than the Euroleague or Greek League title, preferably both, would do. Taking over for head coach Efthimis Kioumourtzoglou, Maljkovi? found a squad led by holdovers Panagiotis Giannakis, Costas Patavoukas, Nikos Oikonomou, Fragiskos Alvertis, Christos Myriounis, Miroslav Pecarski and Stojko Vrankovi?, while the squad leader ?arko Paspalj left along with coach Kioumourtzoglou, both victims of the trophy-less season. However, the roster was about to get a big boost as the Giannakopoulos brothers managed to bring in 35-year-old NBA legend Dominique Wilkins to Athens, signing him to a two-year contract worth US$7 million. The arrival of Wilkins created a lot of buzz around the club as 5,000 fans greeted him upon landing at the Athens airport in September 1995. The next day some 13,000 fans turned out for his first practice. In the coach's first season at the club, Maljkovi?'s Panathinaikos won the Euroleague title, the club's first in its history.
Maljkovi? coached Panathinaikos in the 1996-97 season to an 18-8 regular season record, which was enough for the 3rd spot that qualified it for the playoffs. However, as the playoffs were about to start the coach was let go on 13 April 1997 and replaced with Mihalis Kyritsis.
After leaving Real Madrid, a lot of speculation appeared about his next coaching job. In an interview with Sportski ?urnal, he said that he had been offered the role of head coach of the Lithuanian League club ?algiris, but that he would only take the job in the summer, after the season had finished. He also said that he received several other offers, but refused to disclose which clubs they were from. Finally, on March 9, 2007, he was unveiled as the new head coach of Tau Cerámica, replacing Velimir Perasovi?, who abruptly stepped down in mid-season, due to health reasons. Coincidentally, Maljkovi? coached Perasovi? for four years at Jugoplastika.
However, after a heavy 14-point loss in the 2007 Euroleague Final Four to Panathinakos, Maljkovi? was criticized in the Spanish press, and a lot of speculation appeared about his future. During the off season, he and the club parted ways.
On 12 December 2010, he took over the Slovenian national basketball team.
In the summer of 2011, Maljkovi? also took over the Russian club Lokomotiv-Kuban. Although close to getting fired in November 2011, due to the club's position in the Russian League being way off expectations, he was allowed to stay, leading the team to the final four of VTB United League.
He left at the end of the season in May 2012.
On 1 July 2012, Maljkovi? was formally presented as new coach of Croatian vice-champions Cedevita from Zagreb. On November 20, 2012 he resigned as head coach, stating that he no longer had a will or desire to coach the team.
Maljkovi? is known as a disciplinarian coach, stressing work ethic, holding grueling and frequent practice sessions. His coaching philosophy is based on defense, declaring in 1996, the year he won his second FIBA European Coach of the Year award: "What I considered to be good basketball was rejected by many people as lacking in spectacle, but I'm much happier and more likely to win 51-50 than to lose 128-124". He also stresses repetition as the key ingredient during practices:
|"||Once you make it inside, pro basketball becomes a drill. It can be carefree fun in the beginning when you're prying a talented athletic kid away from other sports by only showing him the fun side of basketball, but afterwards it's hard drill. Any single move, say the left drive, requires between nine and eleven thousand repetitions in order to get it right. The defensive stance that we want the players to assume where your knees are constantly bent in an angle between 90 and 135 degrees isn't pleasant and comfortable. If it was, people would be walking around the street like that.||"|
Maljkovi? cites Aca Nikoli? as the biggest professional influence and considers him "the best coach of all time, the best craftsman in our business". Out of respect for his mentor, Maljkovi? campaigned in 2007 for the Belgrade Arena to be renamed "Professor Aleksandar Nikoli? Arena". Although receiving public support from many influential individuals in Serbian basketball, the initiative was ultimately not implemented. Maljkovi? also holds Ranko ?eravica in high esteem, considering him to be "the Dositej Obradovi? of Serbian basketball, making us basketball-literate".
Upon taking over the young Jugoplastika team in 1986, Maljkovi? explicitly forbid his players from celebrating baskets during games. Maljkovi? said he didn't want his players "driving airplanes after three-pointers" citing reigning Euroleague champion and Yugoslav League rival KK Cibona's shooting guard Aco Petrovi? as a negative example in this regard. Instead, Maljkovi? said he wanted his players to be "exemplary young men that no father in Yugoslavia would regret giving away his daughter to".
During his time at Panathinaikos, Maljkovi? got a chance to coach former NBA star Dominique Wilkins as well as another prominent player from the NBA John Salley, brought in and given big contracts by the club's owner Pavlos Giannakopoulous. Maljkovi? refused to modify his disciplinarian coaching style when it came to big name players, treating them in the same stern and strict manner he treated others on the roster, all of which led to numerous run-ins with both Wilkins and Salley. Reporting on this, the New York Times described Maljkovi? as "likely to act less like Phil Jackson and more like Bobby Knight" while Sports Illustrated referred to him as "an austere Serb who believes in my-way-or-Yugo discipline".
His often stated distaste for the NBA is also well known. In 2009, Maljkovi? said:
|"||I'm not charmed by NBA basketball at all, and I'll tell you why. Firstly, scattered among 30-odd clubs in that league you've only got about 40 or so truly outstanding players. The rest are bit-part protagonists just adding to the glamour and spectacle of it all - I'm not even sure whether these support guys would even cut it in Euroleague. Secondly, the entire regular season is a walk in the park without intensity and without good defense. I'd rather watch, say, Cibona play Partizan anytime over any NBA game. To be fair, the level of play in the NBA increases once the playoffs begin..... But, in general, that whole NBA-patented system of putting the individual player ahead of the team is something I have deep problems with. I remember back when I coached Panathinaikos, my friend Ivica Dukan who at the time worked as a scout for Chicago Bulls brought Chicago's GM Jerry Krause to my house in Athens. Among various things we discussed, Krause told me that once Michael Jordan retires, basketball will become the 4th sport in the U.S., which to me seemed excessive at the time, but now I see that the man was completely right. They lost 25% of their overall TV audience, essentially because one guy retired. On the other hand they've got less and less good, truly sound players, and less and less head coaches who truly run their teams all because they keep insisting on this star-system, looking for the new Michael.||"|
Maljkovi? is the father of Marina Maljkovi? (born 1981), also a professional basketball coach.
In August 2011, during the Eurobasket 2011 preparations, Maljkovi? opened a public row with the Serbian Olympic Committee (OKS) president Vlade Divac, calling the former player a "fraudster and a liar" in Croatian sports daily newspaper Sportske novosti as a response to Divac's remark in Slovenian media that Slovenia would've been better off keeping Jure Zdovc as head coach instead of hiring Maljkovi?. The coach expanded on his insults by saying: "Divac isn't even aware that I got the Slovenia job after Memi Be?irovi?, not after Zdovc. The journalist talking to Divac wasn't kind to him, ringing him up before noon. Considering Divac usually wakes up around 3pm, he was probably still delirious". When told of Maljkovi?'s comments, Divac refused to be drawn into name calling through the media, refusing to say anything more on the subject. However, Maljkovi? wasn't done, responding to Divac's non-response with more insults and veiled accusations: "Divac crossed a line. Every so often he's got excesses like this one in the media. We're two different worlds. It's up to him now whether he wants to start in with me because I got an elaborate file showing what he's all about. I'd only like to add one more thing to my original statement. Divac is a huge fraudster and a huge liar". The row even prompted 86-year-old Bora Stankovi?, the Serbian basketball's elder statesman, to register his displeasure publicly, scolding both sides.
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