The dynamic duo lead a group of Lithuanian Americans to teach athletes of their native land the essence of the game and the results (two undefeated EuroBaskets) speak for themselves.
However few acknowledge the pair’s contribution to Lithuania’s women’s basketball scene, tireless work which was paid off by the inaugural EuroBasket Silver medal on this day in sport.
Kriaučiūnas, 27, was a Chicago born Lithuanian who had studied and represented the University of Notre Dame in basketball before moving to Lithuania.
A year after Lubinas led the US to its maiden Olympic title; Kriaučiūnas played with and coached Lithuania’s national men’s team to its first EuroBasket title in 1937.
The year was 1938, the city was Rome (Italy) and under the guidance of Kriaučiūnas Lithuania was one of five nations to compete in the first edition of the female tournament.
As a result Kriaučiūnas was rewarded with the Order of Vytautas the Great Officer Cross and was reappointed for the Women’s EuroBasket.
The team was composed of Stefanija Astrauskaite, Brone Didziulyte, Juze Jazbutiene, Paulina Kalvaitiene, Tatjana Karumnaite, Juze Makunaite, Stase Markeviciene, Genovaite Miuleraite, Aldona Vailokaityte and Elenora Vaskelyte.
Lithuania faced defeat to Poland 24:21 however defeated the host nation 23:21 in a historic thriller.
Switzerland finished the tournament with a 0-4 win loss ratio thanks to Lithuania’s 28:8 triumph, joined outside the podium by France who Lithuania held off 24:21 after an 18:4 half-time lead.
Lithuania would not return to the EuroBasket podium until 1997 when they claimed their maiden championship title before reaching the Bronze medal match in 2001 and 2005.
In 2020, the tournament is coming back to Europe after more than 20 years.
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