Manager, Denver Nuggets (NBA)
I can confidently say that I am a proud Lithuanian. I’ve always felt this way. Lithuania is my homeland, I spent all of my childhood and teenage years there, and even though I was 18 when I left to study abroad, I can proudly say that I can speak my native tongue fluently without any accent.Artūras Karnišovas
A GRATEFUL DREAM
In 1990, right after Lithuania regained its independence, you made your way to study and play American college basketball for Seton Hall University, followed by a successful career playing for the top teams in Europe. Also it’s important to mention that in 1992 and 1996, together with the Lithuanian men’s team you won bronze medals at the Olympics. Today you are the manager of the Denver Nuggets in the NBA. Which victories have been the most important to you?
On an emotional level, all of the victories I achieved together with the Lithuanian national team are extremely important. I’d especially like to single out the bronze medals we won during the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona. It was the first time we Lithuanians could represent our homeland as an independent state. It was an incredible feeling! Of course, in order to qualify for the Olympics we had to go through a qualifying round. I remember at that time I was a sophomore student at Seton Hall University. I’ll never forget those two months spent with the national team. It was priceless and unforgettable, those memories will be with me for the rest of my life.
You’ve spent more than half of your life living outside Lithuania and it seems like you’ve now settled in the US. What does Lithuania mean to you and how do you relate to it?
I can confidently say that I am a proud Lithuanian. I’ve always felt this way. Lithuania is my homeland, I spent all of my childhood and teenage years there, and even though I was 18 when I left to study abroad, I can proudly say that I can speak my native tongue fluently without any accent. In my family, with my parents and my Lithuanian friends, we always speak Lithuanian.
It would probably be fair to say, that you never parted ways with the game of basketball. Here in Lithuania, basketball is the national sport, some even call it the second religion. Would it be possible to explain this phenomenon and how Lithuanian basketball differs from other countries?
As far as I can remember I’ve had a passion for the game. My father played for the Vilnius Statyba team from the very first day the club was founded. But as you said, this should not come as a surprise because basketball is already in our blood and it has its own unique style, tradition and history. But like any other sport, the game itself is constantly evolving. For example, in the US basketball is very athletic, fast and intense. Bluntly speaking, every day you can learn something new, as long as you want to improve.
Now one of your main objectives is to assemble a winning team. How difficult is it to spot a talented team player?
There’s no easy answer to this question. It takes time to spot a talent, especially one who would fit into a team’s system. It not only takes time but you also have to collect all the necessary information about the player as well as do scouting reports. It’s a combination of things: dribbling, ball technique, speed, passing, shooting, defence, offence as well as the ability to interact with your teammates and have a professional approach towards the game itself. Every single detail is important in order to play at the highest level, all of these factors define you as a player.
How would you compare 1990 and 2018? Would it be possible to draw some similarities and differences?
It’s like day and night. Back in the 1990s Lithuania had just regained its freedom from the Soviet Union and became an independent state. Even though the country was in turmoil with lots of political changes, you could feel a sense of revival. It may sound symbolic, but that was exactly the time when I decided to turn a brand new page and start my new life in the US. But 2018 is the year of maturity – I’m 46 years’ old, have a beautiful wife and kids, and a regular job which I love.