MOSCOW (EuroBasket/EuroBasket Women) - Russia have put Bilbao Basket coach Fotis Katsikaris in charge of their men’s national team and handed the reins of the women’s side to Dynamo Kursk coach Alfredas Vainauskas.
The executive committee of the country’s basketball federation (RSE) have confirmed the appointments, ending months of speculation about both positions.
Katsikaris’ contract with Bilbao in Spain’s Liga Endesa expires after the season but the Greek expects to sign a new deal with the Basque side in the autumn, after leading Russia at EuroBasket 2013 in Slovenia.
There were reports that Greece were interested in making Katsikaris their national team coach but he has said that he never received an offer to take over.
Katsikaris is following in the footsteps of David Blatt, who had led the national side since 2006, once again in Russia.
Blatt left Dynamo St Petersburg after the 2004-05 campaign and was replaced by Katsikaris.
Under Blatt, Russia captured gold and bronze medals at EuroBaskets 2007 and 2011, respectively.
This past summer at the London Olympics, Blatt steered Russia to the bronze medal.
He recently decided not to continue in the job and is instead focusing on his role as coach of Maccabi Tel Aviv.
“The appointment to the post of head coach of Russia is a huge honor,” Katsikaris said in a statement issued by the RSE.
“I am happy to go back to Russia, where I already have a lot of friends. I’d like to thank the leadership of the RSE for having chosen me.
“Russian basketball is on the rise, as shown by the team at the last Olympics in London.
“My goal is to continue this progress.”
Point guard Aaron Jackson, who came into his own under Katsikaris at Bilbao the previous two campaigns before leaving for CSKA Moscow, says Russia have made a very wise decision to put his former boss in charge.
“First of all, I’m very happy for Katsikaris,” Jackson said.
“I think he should succeed in his new position.
“Fotis is great at finding common ground with the players. As a former point guard, he can put himself in our place.
“Katsikaris is probably the best motivator of all the coaches I have worked with.”
As for the women’s team, Vainauskas takes over from Boris Sokolovsky.
“It is an honor for me, and an even greater responsibility,” he said.
“I am happy that I have the opportunity to work with one of the best teams in the world.”
Under Sokolovsky, Russia reached the Quarter-Finals of the 2010 FIBA World Championship for Women, won gold at the EuroBasket Women 2011 and finished fourth at the Olympics.