Sarunas Jasikevicius Could Be A Dark Horse Candidate For The Cavaliers' Coaching Job

KAUNAS, LITHUANIA - APRIL 23: Sarunas Jasikevicius, Head Coach of Zalgiris Kaunas in action during the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Play-Off game 3 between Zalgiris Kaunas v Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul at Zalgirio Arena on April 23, 2019, in Kaunas, Lithuania. (Photo by Alius Koroliovas/EB via Getty Images) photo credit: EB via Getty Images

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Cleveland Cavaliers general manager Koby Altman's mission to shape the franchise in his vision is well underway this offseason. The 2019 NBA Draft is coming soon, with Cleveland selecting between first and sixth-overall, depending on how the lottery shakes out, and twenty-sixth overall courtesy of the Houston Rockets from the Brandon Knight trade. Altman and his staff will leave no stone unturned when looking for the best possible players to select with Cleveland's two picks. With two rookies coming into the fold, on top of a young core of Collin Sexton and Cedi Osman, the right person needs to be in place to help guide and develop them.

Altman has been incredibly thorough on that front as well, looking everywhere at possible coaching candidates to replace Larry Drew. So far, Cleveland has met with former Memphis Grizzlies head coach J.B. Bickerstaff, Dallas Mavericks assistant coach Jamahl Mosley, Utah Jazz assistant Alex Jensen and Miami Heat assistant Juwan Howard, with Mosley being expected to interview again. The Cavaliers have also requested permission to interview San Antonio assistants Ime Udoka and Ettore Messina, Portland assistants David Vanterpool and Nate Tibbetts as well as Denver assistants Wes Unseld and Jordi Fernandez. But, there may be an outsider who challenges for the position.

Per >EuroHoops Stefan Djordjevic, Altman was recently sighted in Lithuania due to his interest in club Zalgiris Kaunas head coach Sarunas Jasikevicius, whom Altman watched lead his club in their Game 4 of the Euroleague playoffs against Fenerbahce Beko. Per the report, “the two have been talking for some time.” and it might be hard for Cleveland to pull him away from Zalgiris Kaunas as it would require a lot for him to leave:

“I always say that it will be hard getting me out of here. May need to kick me through the door with both legs, unless it’s something miraculous."

So it may seem like if anything Jasikevicius could be seeking more money from his club, where he already made $949,756 this year, making him the highest paid EuroLeague coach. But, after Zalgiris was eliminated by Fenerbahce Beko in the EuroLeague playoffs, along with two Lithuanian LKL Coach of the Year awards to his name, Jasikevicius might be interested in coaching in America, especially considering NBA head coaches on average make $5 million annually. But, the problem is Jasikevicius has no formal NBA coaching experience but that does not mean he is ill-suited for the Cleveland job. Sometimes, the best possible solution may be the least likely option.

But, despite his lack of NBA coaching experience, Jasikevicius does have a ton of basketball experience. Jasikevicius spent four years as a player at Maryland, and after going undrafted in the 1998 NBA Draft he returned to Lithuania to begin his professional career. In the 2000 Olympics, Jasikevicius led Lithuania to the semifinals, where they faced the United States. Jasikevicius was a force against Team USA, scoring a tournament-high 27 points in an 85-83 loss. After the 2000 Olympics, Jasikevicius signed with FC Barcelona of Spain and won a Euroleague title three years later. The following season, he signed with Maccabi Tel Aviv. Maccabi won the Euroleague title in 2004, giving Jasikevicius back-to-back titles as a player. In 2004, Jasikevicius and the Lithuanian team were able to get their revenge against the United States. Lithuania upset Team USA 94-90 with Jasikevicius leading the team with 28 points and 4 assists, as well as trash talking the likes of LeBron James, Tim Duncan and Allen Iverson.

Lithuania's Sarunas Jasikevicius (L) shoots the ball blocked by Australia's Andrew Bogut during the men preliminary round group A basketball match of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games at the Olympic basketball Arena in Beijing on August 18, 2008. AFP PHOTO/ Filippo MONTEFORTE (Photo credit should read FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images) photo credit: AFP/Getty Images

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Jasikevicius returned to Maccabi for the 2004-05 season and helped the team repeat as Euroleague champions, etching a place in European basketball history as a dynasty. That summer, Jasikevicius signed a three-year, $12 million deal with the Indiana Pacers, where he spent one and a half seasons averaging 7.4 points and 3.0 assists per game. He was then traded to the Golden State Warriors in 2007 where he struggled to make the rotation and only averaged 4.3 points and 2.3 assists in 11.9 minutes per game. Soon after he was waived by the Warriors and Jasikevicius returned to Europe, signing with Greek club Panathinaikos. While in Greece, Jasikevicius won three Greek titles, three Greek Cups and a fourth Euroleague title, making him the only player to win a championship with three different teams.

The Lithuanian superstar spent four more seasons in the Euroleague, wrapping up his career in 2014 with Zalgiris Kaunas. Jasikevicius the Zalgiris coaching staff after his retirement, and became the team's head coach in 2016. The club’s improvement under Jasikevicius was steady. They continued to dominate in their domestic league, where they had the largest budget, but they struggled to compete in Euroleague, where their payroll was among the lowest. Last season, however, Zalgiris finally broke through, surprising everyone by making the playoffs as the sixth seed with an 18-12 mark and the second-lowest payroll. In the playoffs, Zalgiris upset Olympiacos in the quarterfinals and then fell reigning champions Fenerbahce.

Zalgiris's 2017-18 campaign was nothing short of magical, and a lot of that can be attributed to Jaskevicius. He has built a reputation for his legendary work ethic, and that has trickled down to the entirety of Zalgiris's roster according to Donatas Urbonas of 15min:

“Jasikevicius’ work in the Zalgiris arena begins early, often earlier than some of the arena employee’s. The first thing he does is watch film of upcoming opponents. After that, he works out at the team gym, and then goes to team training. If there isn’t a morning workout for the team that day, Jasikevicius goes back to watching film. He watches a lot of film, highlights weak opponents, and then comes up with a game plan. Jasikevicius excel’s at finding cracks in opponent’s games, but then proceeding with caution, and making sure the cracks are regular occurrences that he can count on to exploit.”

These exploitations found by Jasikevicius, as well as his work ethic and love for the game, are not the only thing he has been commended for. Jasikevicius has been noted as a masterful tactician during his time as Zalgiris's head coach, his offensive sets popped up all over Twitter, and showcased a system that prioritized quick cuts and smart passing. Under Jasikevicius this season, Zalgiris finished with an offensive rating of 99.0, with a true shooting percentage of 52.1, which is seventh-best. On the other end of the floor, they finished with a defensive rating of 99.1, which is impressive considering Nate Wolters, who got serious minutes, was such a middling defensive player.

If Jasikevicius were to coach the Cavaliers, they could expect some immediate results if they were to adopt some of his philosophies. On both sides of the ball, Cleveland finished with one of the worst offensive ratings, true shooting percentages and defensive ratings in the Association. Sexton was also third in usage at 24.6% for Cleveland, while only averaging 3.0 assists per game. Jasikevicius could be huge in Sexton's development as a point guard, as he has been credited with turning Kevin Pangos into an All-Euroleague player, helping Pangos improve in nearly every way statistically.

But Jasikevicius is not only a brilliant basketball mind, but he is also the embodiment of a players' coach. In a now famous clip from a press conference, a reporter asked Jasikevicius about center Augusto Lima missing their semifinal series for the birth of his child, make sure you turn captions on.

Hiring Jasikevicius would be certainly out of the box for Altman and the Cavaliers. Naturally, it would throw up some red flags amongst fans with Jasikevicius drawing some parallels to former Cleveland coach David Blatt. Blatt, like Jasikevicius, was a Euroleague coaching star that was expected to make the jump to the NBA and did so with the Cavaliers. But, Blatt struggled to adjust to NBA basketball, with Tyronn Lue guiding him along more often than not and this lost the respect of both LeBron James and the locker room which led to his downfall, adding more to the stigma associated with European coaches.

The thing is, Blatt was initially hired to both develop Kyrie Irving, Andrew Wiggins, Dion Waiters and Tristan Thompson and grow with them as they became a formidable playoff team. When James came back to town, that changed everything and was likely the beginning of the end for Blatt in Cleveland. Jasikevicius would not be set up to fail like Blatt was, and would be allowed to grow alongside a Cavaliers team that will be adding plenty of youngster  to their foundation over the coming years. More than anything, he would be huge in the development of Sexton, along with any young playmaker Cleveland likely adds in the draft, and can have an easy time establishing the foundations of his system. Plus, if there is a coach who is not frightened by the pressure and tough enough to embrace the role of breaking the mold for European coaches, it’s Jasikevicius.

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KAUNAS, LITHUANIA - APRIL 23: Sarunas Jasikevicius, Head Coach of Zalgiris Kaunas in action during the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Play-Off game 3 between Zalgiris Kaunas v Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul at Zalgirio Arena on April 23, 2019, in Kaunas, Lithuania. (Photo by Alius Koroliovas/EB via Getty Images) photo credit: EB via Getty Images

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Cleveland Cavaliers general manager Koby Altman's mission to shape the franchise in his vision is well underway this offseason. The 2019 NBA Draft is coming soon, with Cleveland selecting between first and sixth-overall, depending on how the lottery shakes out, and twenty-sixth overall courtesy of the Houston Rockets from the Brandon Knight trade. Altman and his staff will leave no stone unturned when looking for the best possible players to select with Cleveland's two picks. With two rookies coming into the fold, on top of a young core of Collin Sexton and Cedi Osman, the right person needs to be in place to help guide and develop them.

Altman has been incredibly thorough on that front as well, looking everywhere at possible coaching candidates to replace Larry Drew. So far, Cleveland has met with former Memphis Grizzlies head coach J.B. Bickerstaff, Dallas Mavericks assistant coach Jamahl Mosley, Utah Jazz assistant Alex Jensen and Miami Heat assistant Juwan Howard, with Mosley being expected to interview again. The Cavaliers have also requested permission to interview San Antonio assistants Ime Udoka and Ettore Messina, Portland assistants David Vanterpool and Nate Tibbetts as well as Denver assistants Wes Unseld and Jordi Fernandez. But, there may be an outsider who challenges for the position.

Per >EuroHoops Stefan Djordjevic, Altman was recently sighted in Lithuania due to his interest in club Zalgiris Kaunas head coach Sarunas Jasikevicius, whom Altman watched lead his club in their Game 4 of the Euroleague playoffs against Fenerbahce Beko. Per the report, “the two have been talking for some time.” and it might be hard for Cleveland to pull him away from Zalgiris Kaunas as it would require a lot for him to leave:

“I always say that it will be hard getting me out of here. May need to kick me through the door with both legs, unless it’s something miraculous."

So it may seem like if anything Jasikevicius could be seeking more money from his club, where he already made $949,756 this year, making him the highest paid EuroLeague coach. But, after Zalgiris was eliminated by Fenerbahce Beko in the EuroLeague playoffs, along with two Lithuanian LKL Coach of the Year awards to his name, Jasikevicius might be interested in coaching in America, especially considering NBA head coaches on average make $5 million annually. But, the problem is Jasikevicius has no formal NBA coaching experience but that does not mean he is ill-suited for the Cleveland job. Sometimes, the best possible solution may be the least likely option.

But, despite his lack of NBA coaching experience, Jasikevicius does have a ton of basketball experience. Jasikevicius spent four years as a player at Maryland, and after going undrafted in the 1998 NBA Draft he returned to Lithuania to begin his professional career. In the 2000 Olympics, Jasikevicius led Lithuania to the semifinals, where they faced the United States. Jasikevicius was a force against Team USA, scoring a tournament-high 27 points in an 85-83 loss. After the 2000 Olympics, Jasikevicius signed with FC Barcelona of Spain and won a Euroleague title three years later. The following season, he signed with Maccabi Tel Aviv. Maccabi won the Euroleague title in 2004, giving Jasikevicius back-to-back titles as a player. In 2004, Jasikevicius and the Lithuanian team were able to get their revenge against the United States. Lithuania upset Team USA 94-90 with Jasikevicius leading the team with 28 points and 4 assists, as well as trash talking the likes of LeBron James, Tim Duncan and Allen Iverson.

Lithuania's Sarunas Jasikevicius (L) shoots the ball blocked by Australia's Andrew Bogut during the men preliminary round group A basketball match of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games at the Olympic basketball Arena in Beijing on August 18, 2008. AFP PHOTO/ Filippo MONTEFORTE (Photo credit should read FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images) photo credit: AFP/Getty Images

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Jasikevicius returned to Maccabi for the 2004-05 season and helped the team repeat as Euroleague champions, etching a place in European basketball history as a dynasty. That summer, Jasikevicius signed a three-year, $12 million deal with the Indiana Pacers, where he spent one and a half seasons averaging 7.4 points and 3.0 assists per game. He was then traded to the Golden State Warriors in 2007 where he struggled to make the rotation and only averaged 4.3 points and 2.3 assists in 11.9 minutes per game. Soon after he was waived by the Warriors and Jasikevicius returned to Europe, signing with Greek club Panathinaikos. While in Greece, Jasikevicius won three Greek titles, three Greek Cups and a fourth Euroleague title, making him the only player to win a championship with three different teams.

The Lithuanian superstar spent four more seasons in the Euroleague, wrapping up his career in 2014 with Zalgiris Kaunas. Jasikevicius the Zalgiris coaching staff after his retirement, and became the team's head coach in 2016. The club’s improvement under Jasikevicius was steady. They continued to dominate in their domestic league, where they had the largest budget, but they struggled to compete in Euroleague, where their payroll was among the lowest. Last season, however, Zalgiris finally broke through, surprising everyone by making the playoffs as the sixth seed with an 18-12 mark and the second-lowest payroll. In the playoffs, Zalgiris upset Olympiacos in the quarterfinals and then fell reigning champions Fenerbahce.

Zalgiris's 2017-18 campaign was nothing short of magical, and a lot of that can be attributed to Jaskevicius. He has built a reputation for his legendary work ethic, and that has trickled down to the entirety of Zalgiris's roster according to Donatas Urbonas of 15min:

“Jasikevicius’ work in the Zalgiris arena begins early, often earlier than some of the arena employee’s. The first thing he does is watch film of upcoming opponents. After that, he works out at the team gym, and then goes to team training. If there isn’t a morning workout for the team that day, Jasikevicius goes back to watching film. He watches a lot of film, highlights weak opponents, and then comes up with a game plan. Jasikevicius excel’s at finding cracks in opponent’s games, but then proceeding with caution, and making sure the cracks are regular occurrences that he can count on to exploit.”

These exploitations found by Jasikevicius, as well as his work ethic and love for the game, are not the only thing he has been commended for. Jasikevicius has been noted as a masterful tactician during his time as Zalgiris's head coach, his offensive sets popped up all over Twitter, and showcased a system that prioritized quick cuts and smart passing. Under Jasikevicius this season, Zalgiris finished with an offensive rating of 99.0, with a true shooting percentage of 52.1, which is seventh-best. On the other end of the floor, they finished with a defensive rating of 99.1, which is impressive considering Nate Wolters, who got serious minutes, was such a middling defensive player.

If Jasikevicius were to coach the Cavaliers, they could expect some immediate results if they were to adopt some of his philosophies. On both sides of the ball, Cleveland finished with one of the worst offensive ratings, true shooting percentages and defensive ratings in the Association. Sexton was also third in usage at 24.6% for Cleveland, while only averaging 3.0 assists per game. Jasikevicius could be huge in Sexton's development as a point guard, as he has been credited with turning Kevin Pangos into an All-Euroleague player, helping Pangos improve in nearly every way statistically.

But Jasikevicius is not only a brilliant basketball mind, but he is also the embodiment of a players' coach. In a now famous clip from a press conference, a reporter asked Jasikevicius about center Augusto Lima missing their semifinal series for the birth of his child, make sure you turn captions on.

Hiring Jasikevicius would be certainly out of the box for Altman and the Cavaliers. Naturally, it would throw up some red flags amongst fans with Jasikevicius drawing some parallels to former Cleveland coach David Blatt. Blatt, like Jasikevicius, was a Euroleague coaching star that was expected to make the jump to the NBA and did so with the Cavaliers. But, Blatt struggled to adjust to NBA basketball, with Tyronn Lue guiding him along more often than not and this lost the respect of both LeBron James and the locker room which led to his downfall, adding more to the stigma associated with European coaches.

The thing is, Blatt was initially hired to both develop Kyrie Irving, Andrew Wiggins, Dion Waiters and Tristan Thompson and grow with them as they became a formidable playoff team. When James came back to town, that changed everything and was likely the beginning of the end for Blatt in Cleveland. Jasikevicius would not be set up to fail like Blatt was, and would be allowed to grow alongside a Cavaliers team that will be adding plenty of youngster  to their foundation over the coming years. More than anything, he would be huge in the development of Sexton, along with any young playmaker Cleveland likely adds in the draft, and can have an easy time establishing the foundations of his system. Plus, if there is a coach who is not frightened by the pressure and tough enough to embrace the role of breaking the mold for European coaches, it’s Jasikevicius.

Source : https://www.forbes.com/sites/evandammarell/2019/05/10/sarunas-jasikevicius-could-be-a-dark-horse-candidate-for-the-cavaliers-coaching-job/

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