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Jonas Kazlauskas, CSKA Moscow
Feb 29, 2012
As one of the coaching deans in world basketball, Jonas Kazlauskas is leading CSKA Moscow to one of its best starts ever in the Turkish Airlines Euroleague. Not only does CSKA have a 14-1 record going into Top 16 Week 6, but Kazlauskas' team is playing attractive, fun-to-watch basketball at both ends of the floor. It is nothing new to Kazlauskas, who led Zalgiris to its only Euroleague title back in 1999, shattering all rules that said back then that only tough defense and low-scoring games led to major success in Europe's top competition. Kazlauskas has also coaches Lietuvos Rytas and Olympiacos in the Euroleague, as well as the Greek, Lithuanian and Chinese national teams. Always ambitious and ready, Kazlauskas knows he has to respect every opponent if CSKA wants to get back to the Final Four for the ninth season in 10 years, keeping the chance to win the title. "I don't want to single out any team. There are a lot of strong opponents left in the Euroleague and we did not have a chance to meet several of them," Kazlauskas said in one Fan Mail answer. "Let's wait for the playoffs and see."
Jonas, I want to become a coach like you one day. How did you start your coaching career? Respectfully,
Maxim – Russia
"I was playing for Statyba and after finishing my career I went to one of the biggest basketball schools in Lithuania in Vilnius. I spent 10 years as kids' coach, I coached Lithuanian national teams, U16 and U18. I won the European Championships with the U18 team and that allowed me to sign the contract with Zalgiris. Since then, I have been working with pros. I don't have definite advice on how to start the coaching career. Every coach walks his own way. But if you are dedicated to what you are willing to do, you will find the way to succeed."
Hi Coach Kazlauskas! I am a 16-year-old Hungarian youth player. I support your team and am very interested in your in-season conditioning program. May I have some information about it? I'd like to improve! My favorite player is Milos Teodosic. I have just got a CSKA jersey from Spain yesterday and I am very proud of it. Thanks,
Nagy Benedek Ágost – Hungary
"First of all, thank you very much for being our fan and support of CSKA team. It is difficult to give any detailed advice right now. When I had just started my coaching career on the junior level I had to play all the roles possible from head coach to conditioning coach and even doctor sometimes. Fortunately, it's all changed. We have three doctors and athletic coach Evaldas Kandratavicius who are in charge of players' conditions. I can just talk to Evaldas and ask him to pay attention to something. He can create individual program for any player. We think Evaldas is a very good specialist, he has experience of working with Dynamo Moscow and Lithuanian national team. He is open and ready to help. You can contact the club to receive his e-mail address and mail him."
Greetings from Serbia, where we support our national team players, Nenad Krstic and Milos Teodosic, playing for CSKA. What is your opinion about them as people and basketball players? We wish you a lot of luck and the Euroleague trophy!
Marko Stavrola – Serbia
"They are very important players for our team. When I was young, more experienced coaches, including some from the NBA, taught me: show me your center and I will tell you about your team. Now I can add: show me your point guard, too. The point guard is your assistant on the court, he turns the game in the direction you want. Teo and Nenad are performing well, they solve all the tasks we ask them to solve, so I think their game is one of the keys to our success until now. They are very good pros, they have good dedication to their work. We don't have enough time to talk outside the court, to meet with the families, but I can tell from the time we spend together that they are always ready to joke, to support their teammates."
Hi, I'm Clémence from France. Last year I was in Moscow and bought my ticket to see the CSKA that I love. I have a question for Coach Kazlauskas. How hard is it to manage a roaster of 14 or 15 players? Thank you so much for this year and go to the top! Davaï CSKA!
Clémence – France
"Surely, it is not easy. Everyone wants to play and you have to leave someone off the 12-man roster for every game. And in some important games, you have to use only 10 players. Obviously, all the players on our team are of very good level but it is risky to put the 'cold' guys on the floor in the end of the game. The reason why we have so many players is the risk of injuries. A big team with the appropriate budget should consider the fact that it may lose some players in key periods of the season and it should be ready not to drop down. Definitely, it is difficult for the head coach to have 14 or 15 players. But it is important to be honest with the players. If you explain everything to the players, it is easier to maintain the chemistry."
Coach Kazlauskas, is this CSKA the best team you have coached, talent-wise? How does coaching a club team compare to coaching a national team? Thank you,
Michael Lazarou – Cyprus
"Well, I had a number of very talented teams. I can start with Zalgiris, which won Saporta Cup in 1998 and Euroleague in 1999. I think we lost just a couple of games. Then comes Lithuanian national team in 1999 with Sabonis just returning to play. We played great that year, we defeated such strong teams as Russia and Croatia by 30 points, but only one bad game cost us medals. We had an experience of defeating Spain easily without Sabas and it looked like we were thinking that we were not going to have any problems with him on the roster. But we lost by one point in overtime and did not make it to the semifinals. Then the national team of 2000 was also very talented – we almost beat Team USA twice. Lietuvos Rytas in the beginning of 2000s should be mentioned also in means of talent. I had Macijauskas, Siskauskas, Kaukenas, Javtokas and Jasaitis simultaneously, though they were too young – from 17 to 21 years old. The Greek national team and the Chinese national team with Yao Ming were also full of talent. CSKA is very, very talented obviously. And we hope we will be able to turn all this talent to success. As for the comparisons of club and national teams – it is absolutely different. You're the coach in the club. You build the team for one or two years, you construct all the work according to your strategy, system. You can add the players, improving the positions and maintaining the chemistry. And in the national team you are more of a psychologist. You have to reach their maximum by just talking to the players."
Dear Mr. Kazlauskas, I am a fan of Olympiacos, a team that you had coached in the past, and of the Greek national team, with whom you won a bronze metal in Eurobasket 2009. If you go back in time to when you were with Olympiacos, what you would have changed in that team? Thank you very much and I wish you good luck.
Vangelis – Greece
"When I was in Olympiacos, the club had much smaller budget. Even smaller than the modern, post-crisis club has. We had the players we were able to afford financially. Still, I think we had a very strong team mentally. We were as a family. And the result was good. We lacked just one shot to make it to the Euroleague Final Four, we lost in Greek League finals to much stronger Panathinaikos team and we fought in every game against any opponent."
Hi, Mr. Kazlauskas. I've watched your team's performance since the beginning of the Euroleague. CSKA is really amazing. Also I'm a Galatasaray fan. I want to ask you: how did you see Galatasaray and its supporters? Also, what can Galatasaray do for consistent success? Thanks a lot, best wishes.
Murat Keskin – Istanbul
"Galatasaray is playing really well this season. They fight in every game. They improve game by game and I think the fans feel it. When we played there the support was just amazing. Galatasaray is the only team to beat us this year, and that tells a lot."
Hello Mr. Kazlauskas! My name is Alexandra, I'm a basketball nerd from Germany and I would like to know how it is for you to coach Milos Teodosic? There are many stories about him that say sometimes he acts like a genius and sometimes like the exact opposite. Maybe this is in the past already. Besides, he says about himself that he's still a "kid", especially on court. Is that true? I'm quite interested in this! Thanks a lot and good luck! I hope to see you in Istanbul! Best regards and wishes,
Alexandra Berg – Germany
"Milos Teodosic is a very good and talented player. He is a creator. The team game depends on him a lot. I have to say that the opponents are always trying to find the cure against such a ‘poison', against the players whose influence on your team game is so high. Sometimes they defend legally, sometimes they act… differently. And every player reacts in his way. I never teach the players to act dirty. You have to answer with your game, you have to prove you are better on the court. But… everything can happen. Secondly, Milos is young. He is growing up as a player and now he has fewer and fewer emotional reactions. I am glad that he improves every day. It is nice to see him growing up as an individual and as a player. And I am happy he is on our team."
Sveiki, Jonai. What was the team that gave you the most as a coach? Where did you learn most and what did you learn there? Thank you,
Linas Katilius – Lithuania
"Every team gives something to me. I still remember my first steps, when I won the European Championships with U18 Lithuanian National Team. I was happy to be close to many great coaches starting with the ones that coached me in Soviet times. I tried to take something from everyone. I think I still don't know a lot and I am trying to pick up something every day."
Coach, congratulations on qualifying to the playoffs. Who is the main opponent for CSKA in the Euroleague?
Maxim, wheelchair player - Balashikha, Russia
"Thank you very much. I don't want to single out any team. There are a lot of strong opponents left in the Euroleague and we did not have a chance to meet several of them. Lets wait for the playoffs and see."