Jonas Kazlauskas is set to coach Lithuanian national team for the next four years after signing the contract today during the press conference. The 57-year-old coach returns to the team after eleven years.
Kazlauskas, who is widely regarded as the best Lithuanian coach was the top candidate for the job. He thought seriously before accepting the offer.
‘I am not used to coming back to the same place’, Kazlauskas said during the press conference explaining why it took a while to decided whether to take charge of the national team again.
The role of Arvydas Sabonis, President of Lithuanian Basketball Federation (LKF), was instrumental in negotiations with Kazlauskas. The newly appointed coach admitted that he wanted to return the favour to Sabas. In 1999 Kazlauskas managed to convince Sabas to play for the national team and help the team qualify to Sydney Olympics in 2000.
The coach who took Zalgiris to Euroleague glory in 1999, knows what it’s like to be in charge of the national team in a country mad about basketball. Kazlauskas received a huge amount of criticism, mainly for the fans, after his Lithuanian national team finished in shocking 12th place in 2001 and was forced to look for another job.
‘Head coach of the national team is second only to Prime Minister in terms of criticism received’, said Kazlauskas. This time is different as former Statyba player is prepared for anything.
Unlike previous cases, Kazlauskas signed a long term deal which will keep him on Lithuania’s bench until the end Rio Olympics in 2016 regardless of the results.
The rest of the coaching staff are yet to be announced. It is expected that the assistant coaches will be young and promising coaches.
There will be no restrictions for Kazlauskas to coach a club. His predecessor Kestutis Kemzura actually received some criticism for not being involved into day-to-day coaching while in charge of the national team.
Kazlauskas is eager to see youngsters who are expected to enter the ranks of the national team in future. Kazlauskas is a proponent of the view that the best available players should play for the national team and young players should gain experience until they are ready to make the next step.