Last season had its ups and downs for Zalgiris Kaunas, but it was destined to go down as a memorable campaign once hometown hero Sarunas Jasikevicius took over as head coach. Zalgiris started the season with Gintaras Krepikas at the helm and he led the team through the regular season. Helped by a road win at FC Barcelona Lassa, the club’s 5-5 record was good enough for fourth place in Group C. However, two games into the Top 16, management decided it was a time for a coaching change and handed the reigns to Jasikevicius, who was serving as an assistant coach. With big men Paulius Jankunas and Ian Vougioukas as the main contributors, Zalgiris beat Olympiacos Piraeus and Brose Baskets Bamberg on its home floor, but finished with a 2-12 record in one of the toughest-ever Top 16 groups.
Zalgiris Kaunas is a synonym for basketball in a country that lives and breathes the sport. Zalgiris was founded in 1944 by the best basketball players in Kaunas and the club needed just three years to win its first Soviet title. It became Soviet champion four other times – in 1951 and from 1985 to 1987, with the latter period going down as the team’s first golden age. With legends Arvydas Sabonis, Sergejus Jovaisa, Rimas Kurtinaitis and Valdemaras Chomicius taking charge, Zalgiris twice came within a game of a European trophy, but lost the 1984 Saporta Cup final to Barcelona, and in the 1986 Euroleague Championship Game came up short against Cibona Zagreb and Drazen Petrovic. Following independence for Lithuania in 1990, Zalgiris gave its basketball-loving fans plenty to cheer about. While the club won the first nine Lithuanian League championships, thus creating a dynasty, it also lifted its first-ever European trophy, the Saporta Cup in 1998, by downing Adecco Milano in the title game behind 35 points from Saulius Stombergas. A year later, Zalgiris shocked the continent by winning the 1999 Euroleague title. With a fun-to-watch offensive style, a cast of stars including Tyus Edney, Stombergas, Anthony Bowie, Eurelijus Zukauskas and Jiri Zidek, was led by Coach Jonas Kazlauskas to Europe's top. Zalgiris has competed in the Euroleague every year since then, but the closest it came to Euroleague glory again was in 2004 – Sabonis’s retirement season – when it lost in an epic fashion a do-or-die Top 16 finale in overtime against eventual champ Maccabi Tel Aviv. The club also continued its dominance at home by winning 12 Lithuanian League titles this century. Zalgiris also lifted a Baltic League crown in that competition’s inaugural 2005 season and won triple crowns – Baltic League, Lithuanian League and Lithuanian Cup – in 2008, 2011 and 2012. In each of the past seven seasons Zalgiris has reached the Top 16, a feat accomplished by only six other European powerhouses. Also last season, Zalgiris continued its reign at home. It did lose the Lithuanian Cup finals against archrival Lietuvos Rytas, but finished the season strong, sweeping Pieno Zvaigzdes, and Juventus in Lithuanian League playoffs, before downing Neptunas Klaipeda 4-1 in the final series to lift its sixth consecutive and 21st Lithuanian League crown.