|20 March 2012|
|Rimantas Grigas, who was coaching men's teams up until this summer, has had three spells at Lithuanian powerhouse Zalgiris Kaunas, once as assistant and twice as head coach |
Belarus have at last found a new coach for their women's team.
Lithuanian Rimantas Grigas, an assistant to compatriot Algirdas Paulauskas at Russian powerhouse UMMC Ekaterinburg, has been put in charge.
Grigas will coach the team this summer and try to lead Belarus into next year's EuroBasket Women.
Should they reach the Final Round, Grigas will coach the team in France.
"On the key issues with the Belarus Basketball Federation, we have agreed pretty quickly," Grigas said.
"I consider the interest in me from the Belarusian side an honour, as well as an offer to work with such an outstanding basketball team."
Belarus will play in Group A with Hungary, Ukraine, Portugal and Israel.
Their first game is on 13 June at home to the Hungarians.
Grigas already knows how good some of the Belarus players are because he coaches one at Ekaterinburg in Yelena Leuchanka, a veteran center and member of the team that captured bronze at EuroBasket Women 2007 in Italy.
However, Grigas says that Leuchanka will not be available to help the team this summer.
"In this qualifying round in the ranks of the national team, we will not see Lena," Grigas said.
"She has signed a contract with a WNBA club - and this is her right.
"Such is life. I hope there is a player who can replace Leuchanka."
Grigas, who has coached men's basketball in his native Lithuania, is excited by the prospect of leading a women's national team.
He has big shoes to fill since his predecessor, Anatoli Buyalski, guided the team from Division B to Division A and steered them to their great moment in Chieti.
Buyalski also guided Belarus to the 2008 Olympics, where they reached the Quarter-Finals, and to a place in the Semi-Finals of the 2010 World Championship.
He almost steered Belarus to the Final two years ago but lost to the hosts, the Czech Republic, in overtime in the last four.
The team came up well short of expectations at last year's EuroBasket when failing to reach the Quarter-Finals.
Belarus will not only be missing Leuchanka, but veteran point guard Natallia Marchanka as well.
She decided to retire before this season.
Grigas is hoping to speak with Buyalski in the future.
"Anatoly has given so many years to this team," he said, "and so can give a lot of advice.
"Now, unfortunately, my communications are limited to the tight schedule: a week ago, UMMC played in the Russian Cup and won and is now preparing for the EuroLeague Women Final Eight.
"But once the heat subsides, of course, I will be glad to receive useful information from Buyalski."