The Austrian Basketball Federation (OBV) turned heads around Europe on Friday by announcing former Lithuania play-caller Kestutis Kemzura as the new head coach of their senior national team.
The OBV and the Lithuanian tactician have penned an agreement for next summer’s FIBA EuroBasket 2017 Qualifiers which includes an automatic renewal clause in case Kemzura succeeds in steering Austria to the showcase tournament.
Austria do not hide that their big hope with the appointment of Kemzura is precisely that this clause is evoked, bringing their four-decade long wait to an end.
The central European nation’s team last played at a EuroBasket back in 1977, finishing in 12th place in the tournament in Belgium.
“We are very happy to have a coach of this quality and experience committed to our big goal,” commented OBV sports director Michael Schrittwieser.
“Our first criterion in the recruiting process was to find someone who has coaching experience from at least one major event.”
“Of the 15 candidates, four met this condition.
“Kestutis Kemzura stood apart as somebody who has coached at FIBA EuroBasket, FIBA World Cup and even at the Olympic Games.”
The 45-year-old Lithuanian tactician had his first experience in charge of a national team at the helm of Latvia, whom he guided through the qualification campaign for EuroBasket 2009 and then to 13th place in the big tournament in Poland.
His success in the neighbouring country caused his native Lithuania to offer him the reins of the national team ahead of the 2010 FIBA Basketball World Championship.
The move brought about the brightest moment in Kemzura’s coaching career and Lithuania’s first medal success in the competition, as he steered a short-handed Lithuania side dogged by injuries to the podium, behind champions USA and runners-up Turkey.
Kemzura stayed in charge of the Lithuanian national team until 2012, leading them to a fifth-place finish at EuroBasket 2011 at home and the eighth spot in the London Games.
The Lithuanian has combined his national team work with roles at important European clubs such as Lietuvos Rytas, Khimki Moscow Region, Lokomotiv Kuban, Asseco Prokom Gdynia and CEZ Nymburk.
At both Gdynia and Nymburk, Kemzura had Austrian national team star Rasid Mahalbasic under his orders and the big man enjoyed break-out individual seasons on both occasions.
Austria will do battle with Germany, Netherlands and Denmark in Group B of the FIBA EuroBasket 2017 Qualifiers, which take place from 31st August to 17 September.
Source: FIBA Europe