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NBA

Who is Sarunas Jasikevicius, the Barcelona coach linked with the Lakers?

The LA Lakers are reportedly considering a move for the Lithuanian, who played for the Pacers and the Warriors, following the departure of Frank Vogel.

Update:
Barcelona coach Sarunas Jasikevicius, who has been linked with the LA Lakers.
Rodolfo MolinaEuroleague Basketball via Getty

The NBA is traditionally a closed shop for European coaches. All of the advances in equality the biggest basketball league in the world has made in terms of race, culture and over the past few years gender as well (even if this another pending matter with Becky Hammon the only visible face of progress beyond analysts and commentators), there has simply never been a place on NBA benches for coaches from the other side of the pond. Former Cavaliers coach David Blatt, an Israeli-American who was born in Massachusetts but spent most of his playing and coaching career in Europe, is one of very few examples while Serbian-American Igor Kokoskov holds the distinction of being the first non-American (he became a citizen in 2009) to hold a position as an assistant coach in the NBA and the first coach born and raised outside the US to be an NBA head coach after his brief stint at the Suns. However, the LA Lakers are reportedly considering adding a name to this shortest of lists: Sarunas Jasikevicius.

As the NBA celebrates its 75th anniversary, the name of the Lithuanian former University of Maryland point guard has emerged as a candidate to replace Frank Vogel as the next permanent head coach of the Lakers. Although it seems on the face of it to be little more than a rumour to keep the market for the position moving, it would represent the biggest breaking of the European coaching barrier in NBA history. Jasikevicius is the current coach of Barcelona and has NBA playing experience with the Pacers and the Warriors, but the Lakers have been interviewing far and wide in their search for Vogel’s replacement.

Lakers widen search for Vogel’s replacement

Among the candidates being considered by Lakers owner Jeannie Buss are Mark Jackson and Terry Stotts. The former is currently an analyst for TNT and previously coached the Warriors before Steve Kerr took over and started a dynasty. The latter was at the Blazers for almost a decade after several assistant roles and took them to the playoffs in eight consecutive seasons.

The probability that Jasikevicius will be parachuted straight in as an NBA head coach is fairly remote, and it would be a truly historic event. Perhaps a more likely eventuality is that he will offered an assistant role before taking the next step, as was the case with Ettore Messina at the Spurs and Sergio Scariolo at the Raptors. An article on Basket News assessing future NBA coaching prospects describes the Lithuanian as a coach who “has quickly emerged as one of the most compelling coaches on the world stage,” and a “charismatic leader who shares his infectious love of the craft as a born coach.”

In the meantime, Jasikevicius has the EuroLeague Final Four to concentrate on - having reached the stage three times as a player and three times as a coach, an historic feat - with Barcelona seeking to add to their two titles having missed out last year against Anadolu Efes.

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