Jasikevicius: "Barça has always been something special to me"

He left Barça in 2003 because some did not want him, but now he has returned as desired. Jasikevicius analyzes the season in AS.


At 44 years old, he has not lost that mischievous smile that he had as a player and neither that penetrating gaze with gray-blue eyes that he fixes on his interlocutor when he interviews him. From Sarunas player to Sarunas coach of Barça only has changed that now he meditates a bit more on his answers, although he responds to everything. And AS has interviewed him exclusively.

Let me start by going back in time. In 2003, after winning two Leagues, two Cups and a Euroleague, he left Barça. Can you explain why?

Because some did not love me and when that happens, as an athlete, you have to find your life.

He goes to Maccabi and there he wins two more Euroleague.

In the end, those people did me a very big favor, because things were even better for me.

Nobody like Barça, who already tried in May 2016, has wanted so much to have him as a coach. What does that mean for you?

I don't remember exactly when it was, although it seems to me that from then until now we have talked every summer. But it couldn't be. This summer things were more serious, we talked a lot about how we were going to do it after not having been able to close it in previous summers.

How did you reach an agreement?

First of all we had to see if we could work together. When both parties realized that we could, and that we could do it well, we reached an agreement fairly quickly.

Having been behind you for so many years, can it create added pressure for you now?

Not at all. The truth is that the players will say that I put a lot of pressure on them, but it is what I also put on myself. And that's what they should think about: doing things well, working to the maximum ... I plan to give my best.

They say that winning the Lithuanian League with Zalgiris is easy, but you, who got all the ones you played, were also able to take the team to the 2018 Euroleague Final Four. They finished third with the second lowest budget in the competition. Was it a miracle or his personal hallmark?

For me there are no miracles, nor is it true that we won leagues easily. There is also a lot of demand there. It is true that we were the team to beat, but I think that no league is easy to win. We had a lot of respect for the other teams and it was not easy for us, because we also played the Euroleague.

What sets the Zalgiris apart from the rest?

It is one of the largest and most important organizations in Europe for how things are done. Not only do you look at the budget, but also how you work, the facilities and how you get to the highest level of new technologies. The Zalgiris is always the first in this and a lot of value should be given to this kind of thing as well.

You have more Euroleague players (four: 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2009) than Barça (2003 and 2010). As a coach, is it more difficult to achieve?

All that is far away. As a coach I have to worry about the daily work, especially understanding the mentality and taking the base we want at that level. I think you have to work very hard for this, to help each other, because there are many things that come before. For me, the mentality is the most important and also go all in the same direction. Basketball comes later.

Was the day you retired as a player (07/29/2014) one of the saddest of your life?

No, because it was already clear to me that this could be the last day and I had that idea. He wasn't one hundred percent sure, but he was clear that it could happen.

Did you ever think that you would return to Barça as a coach, 20 years after having done it as a player? 444 444

No. At that moment, the thing you least think about is those things, although it is true that Barça is something special for me.

He has only made one transfer this season. With Jan Vesely ruled out, names like Jock Landale or Mario Hezonja were talked about. How many reinforcements do you think are necessary?

Now I'm not worried about reinforcements. We are working with the players we have and we are doing well. We are not ruling out signing, but we are not looking urgently either.

They say that the bases are the extension of the coach on the court. You have, right now, two of the best in Europe (Calathes and Heurtel) and two other young people who stand out (Bolmaro and Badio). When it has been base, is that even better understood?

The bases of a team have to think about the others. As a coach I will try to help Nick (Calathes), Thomas (Heurtel), Adam (Hanga) and Leo (Bolmaro) a lot. It is also a process to know exactly what the coach asks for and I hope that every day they will find themselves more comfortable, especially when sending. We'll see how things turn out.

You say that, as a player, you got used to thinking about the five who were on court and that now, as a coach, you also have to think about those who are on the bench, that each player is important to you.

Those on the bench are about to enter the court. You have to help them so they don't make the same mistakes as others. This is very important to me.

Is it difficult to manage a group of 'stars' like the one you have now?

Not at all. They have to understand that the first thing is to make an effort and sacrifice, because here not everyone is going to score 20 points per game. I know they can do it any day, but you have to sacrifice and discipline is to go for everything, thinking only of the team. That is something that some do not yet have and will have to assume.

He plays many sports; he likes golf and soccer. He is a member of Barça football and a passionate supporter. During his brief stay at Turkish Fenerbahaçe (January-June 2011), he had tickets to the Champions League final between Barça and Manchester United at Wembley on May 28. He had two days off and he asked his coach, Neven Spahija, for permission and he did not. Have you forgiven him?

Buff, I had forgotten about that. Of course I have forgiven him. I did not understand it and I still do not understand it because it was two days off and, in theory, I could do whatever I wanted, but he did not let me leave Istanbul. It was a bit strange, but you have to respect the coaches.

On a personal level, his mother Rita was an international handball player. Bronze with the USSR in the 1975 World Cup and selected for the Montreal 76 Games, she had him in March and gave up her Olympic dream. She never regretted it and always says: "My son is going to give me back the Games." Has that lesson in love marked your life?

The figure of my mother has been very important to me, as in any family. What says a lot about her as a person is the path she took at the time, something that today is not so difficult, but in 1976 that was the USSR. In doing so, he showed incredible courage.

And you gave it back to her: she played four Olympics and won the bronze medal in Sydney 2000. Was that for her?

Of course. In addition, I had his support in person in all the Games that I played. He was very excited to see me and also go to the handball games. I think it's okay for a son to be able to give something back to his mother.

He married Anna Douka on July 21, 2017 after eight years of relationship and two children (Aila, 9, and Lukas, 8). Is Anna the best thing that ever happened to her?

What I value most in my life is the family that we have created together. Also, Lukas plays basketball quite well.

Photos from as.com
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