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2019.09.11 09:00

After Lithuania crashes out of Basketball World Cup, who will replace the head coach?

Rytis Kazlauskas, LRT.lt2019.09.11 09:00

On Sunday, the head coach of Lithuanian men’s basketball team, Dainius Adomaitis, announced he would be resigning after the defeat at the FIBA World Cup. 

Having closely lost two successive games, with Australia and France, team Lithuania left the tournament resentful of referee mistakes. Adomaitis did not mince words in the press conference after the match against France. “Such refereeing, second game in the row,” he said, “one game against Australia we play rugby, second game we cannot play with contact.”

“This is a f****** joke, this is not basketball,” he burst out, before loudly slapping the table.

Adomaitis was subsequently fined by FIBA for his outburst at the press conference, although FIBA also agreed that referees made a crucial mistake in the last seconds of Lithuania’s make-or-break game with France.

As Adomaitis announced his resignation, the options to replace Adomaitis centered on five potential candidates.

Kazys Maksvytis

A clear favourite to take up Adomaitis’ seat is Kazys Maksvytis, who was also named as a candidate to replace Jonas kazlauskas in 2016, but the Lithuanian Basketball Federation (LKF) gave the job to Adomaitis following discussions with the players.

Maksvytis brought Lithuania’s so-called golden generation, born in 1992, to victory in Europe’s Under-16, Under-18 and Under-20 championships, and won gold in the Under-19 World Championship.

Players of this generation – Jonas Valančiūnas, Edgaras Ulanovas, Arnas Butkevičius and Rokas Giedraitis – are still visible in Lithuania's national basketball team today.

Speaking after the final game in China against the Dominican Republic, Valančiūnas jokingly asked reporters: “Why is no one asking me what I think about Kazys Maskvytis' candidacy?”

Maksvytis has also brought two Lithuanian basketball clubs, Neptūnas and Lietkabelis, to the league finals for the first time and staged a solid debut at the Euroleague with Neptūnas.

Named a ‘players’ coach’, Maksvytis is praised for his ability to find common ground with everyone, and manages to pull the best performance out of them. He might help end the ongoing dispute between Donatas Motiejūnas and the national team where he hasn’t played since 2017.

Kęstutis Kemzūra

The 49-year-old led the national team to world bronze medals while standing at the helm in 2010-12. The team later lost unexpectedly against Macedonia during the European Championship held in Lithuania, and lost against Russia in the quarter finals of the London Olympics in 2012.

Kemžūra then tried and failed to bring the Austrian basketball team to the European championship in 2017. He hasn’t held the head coach position lately, but has worked as an assistant to the well-known American, David Blatt, and is due to start next season at the Piraeus Olympiacos club.

Darius Maskoliūnas

At first glance, the candidacy of an assistant to the head coach at Kaunas Žalgiris club seems far-fetched.

However, the 48-year-old has worked for many years with the national team and was on the staff when it won the 2015 European bronze.

He already knows well most of the players, and said in multiple interviews that he had matured since starting out as an assistant at Kaunas Žalgiris. Not looking to spend his whole career as an assistant, Maskoliūnas is worth considering when choosing a suitable replacement for Adomaitis.

Donaldas Kairys

Kairys is is one of the most intriguing coaches to come from Lithuania’s younger generation. The 42-year-old has already amassed considerable experience working in the national team where he was one of the coaches between 2006 and 2010.

Since 2009, he has been the head coach at Riga ASK, Dnipro Dnipro-Azot, Minsk Cmoki-Minsk, Słupsk STK Czarni, and Talinn Kalev clubs.

In Poland, he won the championship bronze with Energa Czarni, and brought the Tallinn club to the play-offs in the competitive VTB league which unites mostly Eastern European clubs.

However, under his coaching the Lithuanian Under-20 team lost to Israel in the European Championships and finished fifth.

Although the job in Estonia allowed Kairys to debut in the competitive VTB league, he still lacks experience at the highest club level.

Kairys may not be the main candidate to take over Adomaitis’ post just yet, but by continuing his career as a head coach, he can become a serious candidate for the top job.

Benas Matkevčius

His name has been coming up more frequently in the basketball world. Working with the national team since 2013, the current Boston Celtics scout has become known as an able basketball analysts, displaying great knowledge of tactics.

Matkevčius is able to communicate freely with all players, and knows how to relay crucial information. However, the up-and-coming 36-year-old specialist still lacks experience as a head coach.