In life, just as in basketball, it is very important to be persistent.Jonas Kazlauskas
Being the head coach of the men’s national basketball team is a great honor and huge responsibility. It requires tons of diligence, pedantry and objectivity.
I always try to remain calm and composed no matter the intensity of the situation. It is not easy, but as a coach you have to always think soberly and do your best to win. Otherwise, you are of no use. This is my goal every time I step on the court.
Recognition is a commitment.
Success in sports is achieved through hard work. Talented young athletes tend to forget that.
When playing against a stronger opponent, it is very important not to get scared. Fear has a significant negative impact, and if it gets under your skin, it disrupts everything – movements, coordination and thoughts. Controlling emotions is hard, especially when you start thinking of the possible negative outcome of ‘”what if…” You always play best when relaxed.
You should always do your best to motivate a player. Not only before a game, but also on a daily basis. It is a routine duty, as I call it. You have to find the rights words every time in order for a player to put everything he’s got into achieving the best possible result. It’s not easy, but it is necessary.
Fan support is crucial. We are really blessed to have such an army of faithful fans. They are awesome and sometimes fanatical, but in a good way. No matter where we play, we always feel their support. I think that in a sport like basketball, it is very unique.
For me, one of our most memorable victories was at the Olympic Games in Sydney back in 2000 – in every possible aspect. The team was young and nobody expected much of it, but we worked and played hard as a unit. We had a really good game against the USA team in the preliminary round as well as in the semi-finals. It was the first time anyone had really challenged the mighty USA team down to the very last second. I am very proud of the team. They demonstrated great teamwork and a very high level of basketball, which won us bronze medals at the end.
A moment I will never forget is Mantas Kalnietis’s injury in the last friendly game against Croatia in Zagreb. He was an irreplaceable key playmaker and there were only a few days left to the start of the FIBA Basketball World Cup (2014). The expectations were high and, prior to the injury, the team was fully prepared for the tournament. At that time, it seemed like everything just collapsed in front of my eyes in a split second. The game went on, but my thoughts were far away.
When the National anthem is being played, I always think of the responsibility I took on and nation’s expectations.
Before every decision, I always double check.
The hardest decision is to call the final team roster.
I am happy about Jonas Valančiūnas and the progress he is making. He is a great basketball player and is improving fast.
Teamwork is the core basis of good and consistent results.
The toughest enemy on court is an athlete’s ego. If a player thinks of himself and his own statistics first and the team second, you can forget about teamwork. Basketball is a team sport. Of course, if one player can defeat the opponents single-handed, that is fine, but in team sports this is rarely possible. Athletes with big egos can only achieve a lot if they do not overestimate themselves.
I cannot recall a day when I was late to training.
The most talented players I have coached would be Arvydas Sabonis and Yao Ming. They were fighters. Every great athlete has this trait.
Working as a coach in China taught me to stay calm in desperate situations. Everything is different there. What seemed like an obvious thing to me was difficult for them or vice versa. I had quite a few of these situations as a coach, when no matter how hard you work and try to explain, the end result is the same. But that’s just the way it goes. Nonetheless, it was a great experience.
The coach I respect the most is Gregg Popovich. There are many good teams around the world, and very often teams win championships because they assemble a team full of stars. What I admire about Gregg Popovich is that he managed to create one star – the entire San Antonio Spurs team. I like that. The way he works and speaks is very familiar to the philosophy of basketball that I try to follow. It is extremely hard to win championships, but by retaining the core of the team and sticking to his philosophy, he manages to deliver trophies without any long dry spells.
It is never too late to improve.
The USA team will always be a favorite to win. They always play for the top spot and give their best to be the winners.
The Lithuanian ‘Dream Team’ would be Arvydas Sabonis, Modestas Paulauskas, Linas Kleiza, Šarūnas Marčiulionis and Šarūnas Jasikevičius.
After every game, I find it hard to fall asleep. My emotions are still high. I tend to analyze the game and think over and over again whether one or another decision I made was correct or not. However, I try to remain rational. What happened is already in the past. You cannot live two lives, and you can never come back and try it all over again.
In life, just as in basketball, it is very important to be persistent.
The person I have the most respect for is President Valdas Adamkus. Yes, I know, there are many respectable people, but his life and the road he took stands out and is truly something special.
Home is a place that is always good to come back to.
On my travels, I always try to have a book with me. I read detective novels. Of course, lyrical and somewhat melancholy music always comes in handy.
Discipline is a necessity.
I do not like to talk about my family in public.
The best advice I have ever received is that it is impossible to be good to everybody, no matter how hard you try.
My parents always taught me to take my best shot at anything I do and life will eventually reward me. Now I am convinced that life usually evens things out, one way or the other. The most important thing is to try your best. I try to pass this philosophy on to my kids and grandchildren.
My biggest achievement is yet to come. I am philosophical on this matter. What has happened is already in the past; you have to move forward, set new goals and never stop.
Few people know that I smile a lot.
You should never say never.
The most important thing in life is to realize that everything can suddenly tip over and change. Nothing is permanent.