Lakers Consider Barcelona Coach Sarunas Jasikevicius for Top Job

As the playoffs heat up, one team is conspicuously absent from the competition—the LA Lakers. The Lakers started the 2021-2022 season with high hopes of reaching the NBA finals. They built a superteam around Lebron James that included Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook, and their fans were thrilled. Along with cheering on their teams on social media and in-person, betting is a big part of the fan experience in the NBA. Many sportsbooks offer free bets to new clients, giving them a chance to wager on the big games. The LA Lakers were a crowd favorite, with many predicting the storied franchise would bring home a title in 2022. 

However, the LA Lakers ended the season without making the playoffs, disappointing fans worldwide. The team are now in rebuild mode and are searching for a coach to bring the magic back to the franchise. They decided to fire head coach Frank Vogel, and are now searching for a talented coach to get the team back on track. FC Barcelona Bàsquet coach Sarunas Jasikevicius is a name that has recently surfaced in conversations as a potential Lakers coach. Keep reading to learn more about the Lakers and Jasikevicius. 

Who is Sarunas Jasikevicius?

After the Lakers’ disastrous 33-49 season, where they failed to make the NBA playoffs, there have been whispers about who would lead the team in the upcoming season. Lakers owner Jeanie Buss is actively searching for a new coach, and the team have assessed several candidates over the past several weeks. Sarunas Jasikevicius has come up with increasing frequency as the team looks to find that unique combination of leadership and management necessary to reverse their fortunes.

When Jasikevicius’ name was first mentioned as a possible head coach for the Lakers, most NBA fans had never heard of him. The Lithuanian currently serves as head coach for FC Barcelona and is recognized as one of the best European point guards to ever play the game. He played college basketball at the University of Maryland. As a professional basketball player, he was selected twice to the All-EuroLeague First Team, named EuroLeague Final Four MVP and Israeli Basketball Premier League MVP in 2005, and a four-time triple crown winner. Those are just a few of his accomplishments as a basketball player. Suffice to say, Jasikevicius knows basketball. 

Jasikevicius retired from playing basketball on July 24, 2014, and became assistant coach of his former team, Zalgiris Kaunas, in Lithuania. He became the team’s head coach in 2016 and won his first EuroLeague victory that month. As a coach, he won five consecutive titles from 2016 to 2020 and three domestic cups in 2017, 2018, and 2020. He was signed as head coach of FC Barcelona on July 2, 2020, and the team won the 2020-2021 EuroLeague during his first season with the club. 

History in the Making

If the Lakers name Jasikevicius as their head coach, it will be a historic move. The NBA has traditionally been closed to European coaches, with few transitioning from coaching European teams to serving as head coaches in the NBA. However, things that were once thought impossible have happened in recent years, such as San Antonio Spurs assistant coach Becky Hammon making NBA history as the first woman in regular-season history to act as a head coach. 

Despite the league’s changes in recent years, with Europeans Giannis Antetokounmpo (2018-2019, 2019-2020) and Nikola Jokic (2020-2021, 2021-2022) winning the past four NBA MVP awards, there are few examples of coaches successfully crossing the pond to coach NBA teams. One exception was Israeli-American coach David Blatt who was born in Massachusetts but spent most of his coaching career in Europe. 

Blatt took over as the Cleveland Cavaliers’ head coach in 2014. He led the team to the 2015 NBA finals during his first season. Another exception was Serbian-American Igor Kokoskov who became the first non-American assistant coach in NBA history. He later had a short stint as head coach of the Phoenix Suns, making him the first person in NBA history to serve as a head coach when born and raised outside of the US.

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