Jonas Kazlauskas could be set to make a return to Lithuanian national team after 11 years. The 57-year-old coach has already met with Arvydas Sabonis, Lithuanian Basketball Federation (LKF) President and reportedly discussed the possibility of coaching the national team.
Unlike previous years, this time all sides are pointing to Kazlauskas as the man who should revive Lithuanian basketball. The LKF critics, namely Rimas Kurtinaitis and Sarunas Marciulionis, have both expressed their opinion that the national team should be led by Kazlauskas.
Former LKF President Vladas Garastas, who isn’t known for getting on well with Kazlauskas, stated very clearly that the national team must be coached by the best coach available and at the time that’s Jonas Kazlauskas. Garastas didn’t even consider other coaches.
In addition to all of the above, Kazlauskas himself hinted indirectly that he would accept the job if offered.
‘If Sabonis wants my help, I will always help’, said former CSKA Moscow coach.
It appears that the time has come to settle the differences between Kazlauskas and LKF that prevented him from coming back to the national team in the past.
Kazlauskas, who is widely labelled as the best Lithuanian coach, is certainly the most experienced as regards to the titles won and the teams coached.
He worked with three national teams already (Lithuania, China and Greece) and took Lithuania to bronze in Sydney Olympics, won gold with China in Asia Championship in 2005 and 2006 Asian Games as well as bronze with Greece in EuroBasket 2007.
At club level Kazlauskas coached Statyba, Zalgiris, Lietuvos Rytas, Olympiacos and the most recently CSKA Moscow. He is currently unemployed after CSKA management decided not to renew his contract after the club lost Euroleague final to Olympiacos and brought Ettore Messina instead.
If appointed, Kazlauskas would face similar situation he faced in 2000 when some of the top veteran players, the most notable being Arvydas Sabonis, retired. In 2000 the young national team returned home with Olympic bronze medals on their necks.
Sarunas Jasikevicius, Rimantas Kaukenas and Darius Songaila will not be putting on Lithuanian jersey again after retiring from international basketball. It still remains to be seen whether the likes of Lavrinovic brothers play for the national team again.
The new head coach whether it’s Kazlauskas or someone else will have to build a team for the future. Arvydas Sabonis revealed that the new head coach will sign a 4-year deal and will work with the team for the whole Olympic cycle.
The pressure to get results will be lesser, at least from LKF’s side. Sabonis said that the new coach will remain in his position for the whole four-year period regardless of the results.
LKF will hold a meeting on September 26, during which the potential candidates will be evaluated and the new head coach might be chosen.