Kazlauskas Back At The Helm

26 September 2012

EUROBASKET

Greece Head Coach Jonas Kazlauskas
Jonas Kazlauskas is back on the sidelines for his country Lithuania after 11 years of absence

Lithuania have turned back the clock and put Jonas Kazlauskas back in charge of their national team.

The veteran tactician, who is 57, will lead the Baltic giants next summer when they compete at the EuroBasket in Slovenia.

He was previously at the helm of the national side from 1997-2001 and in addition to leading club sides like Olympiacos and only last season, CSKA Moscow, guided the China and Greece national teams.

Kazlauskas' most famous moment in his first spell as coach of Lithuania came in 2000, when he guided the team to a bronze medal at the Sydney Games.

At that Olympics, Lithuania were within seconds of a spot in the title game but Sarunas Jasikevicius missed a go-ahead three-pointer at the death and the Americans won, 85-83.

Kazlauskas is expected to lead the national team for the next four years, though he also thought to have the freedom to coach a club side should he wish to do so.

During his first spell, Kazlauskas helped lay the foundation for a successful run to the EuroBasket 2003 title in Sweden.

That triumphant side was coached by Antanas Sireika.

Ramunas Butautas replaced him at the helm, but after coming up short of the last eight at the EuroBasket in Poland in 2009, Lithuania put Kestutis Kemzura in charge.

Under Kemzura, Lithuania rebounded by capturing the bronze medal at the 2010 World Championship in Turkey.

Lithuania reached the podium in Istanbul, despite needing a wild card to take part in the tournament.

Last year, with injuries robbing the national team of leading players Linas Kleiza and Jonas Maciulis, Lithuania reached the Quarter-Finals of the EuroBasket in Kaunas but were upset by F.Y.R. of Macedonia and came in fifth.

That was good enough to reach the 12-team FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) in Venezuela, where Lithuania claimed one of three spots for the London Games.

The team then reached the Quarter-Finals at the London Olympics but exited the tournament after an 83-74 defeat to Russia in a hard-fought game.

There was little doubt who would become the new coach when president of the Lithuania's basketball federation (LBBF), legendary Arvydas Sabonis, put Kazlauskas' name forward at Wednesday's executive board meeting.

The executive committee approved Kazlauskas by a majority vote.

Both Maciulis and Kleiza last month spoke out in support of Kemzura remaining in the job, with the latter saying: "Kestutis Kemzura is a very good coach.

"How is it different from the World Championship three years ago and now?

"This is the same coach.

"Everyone wants to blame Kestutis Kemzura (for eighth place finish at Olympics), but I am in favor of him.

"I like Kestas, and I don't have anything against him remaining."


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