Mindaugas LukosiusCoach Mindaugas Lukosius opens his heart to Basketball Followers and tells us more about his career and his past season in Lebanon and his future plans.

– Coach, you used to be a former Soviet Union and Lithuanian national team player. Please tell us more about your career as a basketball player and your best memories?
ML: I've started playing basketball when I was 6, and since then, had many unforgettable moments. Have played in USSR and Lithuania National Youth teams. Have been in Lithuania national team in 1992, but under some circumstances, didn't play in the Olympics. I'm proud that I have played with players such as Chomicius, Kurtinaitis, Sabonis, Marciulionis. I also have been a champion of Lithuania and Hungary, twice each.
– Outside a successful coaching career in Lithuania and Germany, you coached in Kuwait where you also won every possible title there in 2 seasons with Qadsia except the Asian Championship. What does the ML: Kuwaiti basketball need to be able to win continental titles and how was your time in Kuwait? will you ever return there?
The biggest problem is that there's a big competition between two major clubs and this doesn't allow the other team to collect the best players from the 2nd one, to represent a Kuwaiti club in Asian championship. Kuwait leaves me the best memories, and I still have many friends there.
– What do you think of the level of the basketball in the Middle East (outside of Lebanon) and the Gulf? and do you think that Iran is going far ahead?
ML: Kuwait and Qatar are the top two in Gulf, but they aren't good enough in the Middle East. The results of the last years shows, that basketball is progressing in Iran the most.
– How was the level of the competition this past season in Lebanon?
ML: The level was good, but I've heard that couple of years ago, it was much better.
– How do you see the level of the Lebanese league comparing to the Arab world, Asia & Europe. What can we do to make it become better (higher level and more competitive)?
ML: Lebanese and Iranian leagues are the best in Middle East, but it would be too hard, to compare them to European leagues. At first, it should be independent from federation, fully professional league, which would have a long term vision, and prevent and solve upcoming problems. The league organization of this year was very bad, because of changing time-limit, changing dates & schedules, stopping championship and deciding to finish the championship two months earlier than expected, left no team satisfied. Did you hear anywhere, that in the playoffs, teams that faced each other were 3rd against 5th and 4th against 6th (positions in the regular championship)? Or that the finals, best of 5, were scheduled everyday from Monday to Friday ? But as Lebanese like to say, with the smile on their face "This is Lebanon" 🙂 
– Do you think that 2 imports are enough for the Lebanese league?
ML: I think, that they should take a look and follow the European leagues. This question was on in Europe, 10 years ago, and every country was solving in their own way. But now, most of the European leagues teams have more that 2 import players. 
– You joined Blue Stars in Lebanon for this past season and offered one on the best attractive basketball in Lebanon in the past few years. How do you evaluate your season with Blue Stars? What were the reasons of your success?
ML: For this season, Blue Stars have created a new team of young talents. Major goal was to make them have faith in their abilities, work hard in the practices, and make the team feel the beauty of basketball. I'm happy, that the players trusted me and tried to make everything that was told to. Basketball is a team sport, and our play was attractive, because we played as a TEAM.
– You are a coach with a winning tradition. You won titles everywhere you coached. What's your feeling after this season. What did you miss in order to have a winning team with Blue Stars (you faced many ups and downs this season)?
ML: As I have mentioned, the changing of the schedule had a lot of influence, having playoffs earlier, than how it was decided at the beginning of the season and etc.  these are the subjective conditions. In coaching, 50% of the luck is planing. Other problems: injuries, rehabilitation. For example, the captain of the team, Ahmed Ozeir, haven't played a single game in the season, even though, there was much expectectations from him. I think that physical preparation for the players, isn't correct in Lebanon, which causes many injuries. During whole season I had to keep on explaining the players, that speed is more important then large biceps, in basketball.
– What do you think of your local players and how do you evaluate your 2 American players level for this season?
As I told you, the local players have showed their best, and the basketball that our import players have shown, was the best in my opinion, comparing to the salaries they were getting and looking at the quality of basketball.
– We noticed some tension between you and your American guard Nick Zachery, but he stayed in your team for the whole season despite the many rumors we heard that you will replace him. What really happened?
ML: Nick has a personality of a leader. He helped us in many crucial moments, but sometimes his individual actions have been harmful for the team basketball. In my team, players have to do everything, to reach for the win in every single game.
– What do you think of Blue Stars and the management and how was the cooperation between you and them?
ML: I'm happy that I had a chance working with professional, great leaders, during my career. Trust and understanding was one of the reasons of success of Blue Stars. I had a great cooperation with very dedicated and honest people like Claude & Mario Maacaron, Rabih Aboujaoudeh and Mario Saradar who has given a lot, not only to Blue Stars, but for the basketball in Lebanon.
– What do you think of Blue Stars decision to fold their division one team and release all their players?
ML: It's really sad, and I think, it was caused by some disorder in the team, and some previousg problems.
– What do you think about Riyadi's defeat in the Asian Championship?
ML: The Asian championship, was the third important tournament for Riyadi in one month. They went there after winning the Lebanese and Arab championships. Players were tired and the squad in that championship was different. Vogel and Ismail didn't go, and Fadi was injured, and they are the key of the wins for Riyadi.
– Where you surprised to see Riyadi win the Lebanon championship after all the problems they suffered this season, knowing that you beat them twice this season out of 3 encounter.
ML: It's very experienced team, that can survive in tough situations and well managed by coach Fouad Abou Chacra. They deserved to win the championship. But still, Blue Stars is the only team having a positive balance against the champions.
– You always admired Mouttahed throughout the season. After 2 defeats in the final in the past 2 years what do you think they still need to become champions?
ML: Mouttahed have won the regular season this year, played beautiful basketball, and Darren Kelly with Tony Williams were probably the best players of the league and abig credit goes also to coach Toni Vujanic. But this team was missing the mentality of the winner. In the finals, it looked like, they didn't believe in the victory.
– Sagesse is the only team you couldn't beat this season in Lebanon, knowing that all your games ended in a 1 or 2 pts difference and that they are a much experienced team. What are the reasons? and what do you think of their fans?
ML: Yes, when playing against Sagesse, we've really missed luck, but all of the games were very tensed and everything was decided in the last seconds. That's where the experience of the players comes. Sometimes, even the qualifications of the referees. About Sagesse fans, it would be a lot to talk. Having that type of fans, the team shouldn't play bad or even lose. 
– What do you think about the new comer Tebnin and their surprising qualification to the final 4 after beating Champville?
ML: It's a well set-up squad, and their qualification to the final 4 is no surprise.
– Are you interested to stay in Lebanon for the coming 2009-2010 season and is there any team in Lebanon that you'd be interested to coach in the future. We also heard that you have many offers from teams in Europe?
ML: Season is just over. Knowing the economical situation now, not many teams have exact plans for the next season. There are some conversations with a couple of teams, but my agent knows more about it. My wish,is to coach the team, that would aim for the champions title in the league.
– What do you think of Lebanon's National Team chances in qualifying to the next World Championship? and do you think that with the absence of Yao Ming, does the Lebanese NT have any chances of winning the Asian title? If not, who do you think is a strong candidate to win the title and advance to the next World championship and why?
ML:This year, Lebanese national team is trying to collect the best players. Some of them are playing in the other leagues, and will come to the national team for the first time. It's not decided yet, which import player will get the nationality, to represent Lebanon. After these questions will be solved, then we can talk about the strength of the team. But I'm sure, that Lebanon will make it to the World Championship.
– Would you be interested to coach the Lebanese national team in the future? where you approached?
ML: Coaching the national team is a very good praise of the coach. Not only honor, but also huge responsibility.
– You won as a head coach, with the Lithuanian national team the World University Championship in summer 2007. What are your best memories as a basketball coach?
ML: It's the biggest win of me as a coach. I have the finals recorded, and watch it sometimes to remember, I remember, how the national team, was standing on the winners podium, and were singing the Lithuanian National Anthem.
– Lithuania is a small country in population and similar to Lebanon. Why is Lithuania so much ahead in basketball?
ML: Even though, basketball is sport number 1 in both, Lebanon and Lithuania, but the difference is big. As we say in Lithuania, basketball, is our second religion. The main work is done in the special basketball schools, that children start going to since they are 5-6 years old. Qualified coaches, game system, press and television, of course the wins of our national team, this makes the product, which is called, the Lithuanian Basketball.
– Do you have any plans with the Lithuanian national team this summer or in the future?
ML: Yes, I am the coach of Lithuanian second national team. We'll start practicing on July 1st and then  we'll go to China, to play friendly games.
– Where do you think Lithuania now stands in the basketball world?
ML: Lithuanian basketball is very valuable. None of the national teams have such a consistant results. Not for nothing we have the right to organize the European men basketball championship in 2011.
– Last word to your fans in general and to the basketball fans.
ML: As a player and as a coach, I have visited many different countries, and met many people around the basketball court, but fans were always the most sincere. See you on the basketball court, I will work as hard as I can, so that I could leave you satisfied.

source: www.basketballfollowers.com