Who is Dainius Adomaitis?

New Hapoel Jerusalem coach from Lithuania has big shoes to fill after taking over from Katash.

NIMROD TISHMAN (30) and Maccabi Rishon Lezion were too strong for Tamir Blatt and Hapoel Jerusalem on Sunday night, pulling out a 79-73 Balkan League win. (photo credit: BERNEY ARDOV)
NIMROD TISHMAN (30) and Maccabi Rishon Lezion were too strong for Tamir Blatt and Hapoel Jerusalem on Sunday night, pulling out a 79-73 Balkan League win.
(photo credit: BERNEY ARDOV)
Last week, Hapoel Jerusalem named Dainius Adomaitis as its new head coach, replacing Oded Katash who left to join Panathinaikos. The Lithuanian bench boss arrives in the capital city after having last coached Rytas Vilnius between 2018-2020.
Adomaitis comes to the Holy Land with a rich resume of having managed teams in Lithuania as well as the National Team, which he led to ninth-place finishes at the 2019 World Cup in China and in the 2017 EuroBasket tournament, in which one of the group stages was held in Israel.
The 47-year-old Šakiai native has also won the Lithuanian League Coach of the Year in 2015 and 2016 while taking Neptunas Klaipeda to the league finals in 2015 along with capturing the Lithuanian King Mindaugas Cup with Rytas in 2019.
As a player, Adomaitis helped lead Zalgiris to the 1999 Euroleague championship along with the 1998 Eurocup title.
To understand what type of coach the Reds have brought on board, The Jerusalem Post spoke to Jerai Grant, who played under Adomaitis at Neptunas as well as lrytas.lt sports editor Martynas Suslavicius and Lithuanian basketball blogger Rob Karaznevic.
“I played with Coach Adomaitis for a couple of years,” began Grant. “We went to the finals in the first year with a great team where we played Zalgiris and lost the first game but won the second which was a big deal. I proposed to my wife right before that game, so it was a great moment.”
“He allows for some space to be creative and for you to get into your rhythm, but he is very technical and it’s important to work within the system that allows freedom within that system. He’s not going to blow up at every mistake if you are playing hard.”
Karaznevic concurred with Grant’s initial assessment.
“I’d say he’s the kind of coach that lets his players know that he trusts them and leaves them room for improvisations, but he is also a good basketball mind, an underrated coach who has proven that he can overachieve with his teams. His teams usually rely heavily on point guard play and pick-and-rolls. He’s not a pushover and is generally good with players and his locker rooms are known to be quite tight-knit.”
Suslavicius also reflected on what seems to be Adomaitis’s secret to success.
“First of all, he is all about teamwork. He is very hard-working. You will see how fast he will understand Israeli basketball. He is a very precise coach, because he’s always talking about tiny details, which will determine the result.
“As I know, players really like him,” continued Suslavicius. “He was a basketball player so he understands them. He tries to communicate with the team from the same level, never looking down on them in a condescending manner. But it doesn’t mean he doesn’t get angry. He is a very demanding coach.”
Grant said that Adomaitis was in fact one of his favorites on the sidelines.
“He is 100% one of the best coaches I played under and he’s one of the best people you’ll ever meet. He’s down to earth and you can talk to him about things and he gets it. He’s unlike the typical European coach. He demands responsibility and wants you to do what you’re supposed to do, but he’s still young enough to listen and adapt to things.”
“He’s a hard worker,” Karaznevic said. “When you listen to him you can definitely see he has a good basketball mind. He will not be a lazy coach who’s just there for paycheck. He has a lot to prove, especially after his time at Rytas.”
Suslavicius explained how Adomaitis delves into the finer details of the game.
“He likes to come to a game with as much information as he can get. That means a lot of video analysis. As a player you must be ready to sweat in training sessions, especially on defense.”
Grant commented on the defense as well.
“We used to hold teams in the 50-point range and that’s his hallmark.”
As a coach who has spent time with many lower-level teams, Suslavicius feels that this has honed his skills.
“He earned a lot of praises when he was working with Juventus and Neptūnas because he was able to achieve a lot with smaller teams. Look at his achievements with Rytas in 2019 where he won Lithuania Basketball Federation Cup and also reached the Eurocup quarterfinals.”
Adomaitis had mixed results with his National Team after taking over from one of the all-time great Lithuanian coaches.
“He stepped in after legendary Jonas Kazlauskas has been with the team and that would be hard for any coach. The fans were demanding for Šarūnas Jasikevičius, but he didn’t want to take the job. When the federation announced Adomaitis as coach many fans were very angry.”
Karaznevic expanded on his time with the National Team.
“Adomaitis gets criticized in Lithuania a lot, but so does every coach, it’s a brutal and judgmental environment. However, if we look at the teams he’s left, they performed worse after his departure including both the National Team and Rytas. Now a lot of people are saying ‘Okay, maybe he’s not that bad.’”
Adomaitis also gained a lot of credit from the supporters when he openly criticized a refereeing mistake that saw Lithuania lose and be knocked out of the World Cup for a non-call on a clear goaltending by France’s Rudy Gobert, explained Karaznevic.
“He gained a lot of respect in Lithuania after this. It showed that he has a strong personality and isn’t afraid to express his opinion.”
But one thing that all agree on is that he’s a players coach and that played a factor in his being selected to coach Lithuania said Suslavicius.
“The Federation had been debating between Adomaitis and Rimas Kurtinaitis, who is currently the coach at Khimki and all of the players said that they preferred Adomaitis to take the team.”
Of course, that doesn’t mean Adomaitis is lax with standards and discipline, said Karaznevic.
“He’s not a quiet coach and he has no problem raising his voice at players.”
Grant echoed the sentiments.
“He has his rules and principles and he’s not flexible about that. He’s been successful because of that. He likes guys coming in early and not breaking team rules.”
Adomaitis hasn’t coached outside of his homeland since the beginning of his career, when he was behind the bench in Poland between 2009-2012. But that shouldn’t be an issue as he takes over Jerusalem, explained Grant.
“I do think he can succeed and it depends on the players as well. He’s got the respect of other countries due to his national team resume although he has coached primarily in Lithuania. You ask most of the players and they will be willing to vouch for him. He’s a family man and he’s great with his family and you can see that by the time he spends with them. That spills over into the coaching and he wants that relationship with his players.”
“He hasn’t coached a good, worthy team abroad,” noted a skeptical but realistic Suslavicius. “What if he doesn't connect with players? I have also heard that Jerusalem has budget issues, so that may affect his mobility to have a team that he imagines. Put that pressure on a foreign coach and it could lead to failure. It will also depend on how much freedom he will get as well.”
Karaznevic believes that having time off since the summer will play a big factor in Adomaitis looking to succeed and take Jerusalem to the highest level.
“Since his time at Rytas, he’s had a lot of free time to improve and I think he did, just from listening to him talk. He will be very motivated to achieve good results and will come ready, 100%.”