03february

Rimas Kurtinaitis's 100 Wins

Former Zalgiris star and current Khimki coach Rimas Kurtinaitis has once again etched his name in European basketball history. On Monday, Kurtinaitis became the first-ever coach to win 100 games in the VTB United League.

To commemorate the achievement, VTB-League.com looks back at Kurtinaitis's coaching career and notable victories in the league.

At the beginning of the 2000s, Rimas Kurtinaitis finished his playing career at BC Kiev, serving as a player-coach. He began career on the sideline in earnest in 2002, coaching at BC Gala, while also serving as head coach of the Azerbaijan national team. Kurtinaitis went on to work with the Lithuanian national junior team, Ural-Great, Sakalai, Slask, Lietuvos Rytas (where he won the domestic league, Lithuanian Cup and Eurocup), and finally VEF Riga, where he made his VTB United League debut.

Debut win

Not surprisingly, Kurtinaitis won his very first game in the VTB United League. Led by Artsiom Parakhouski and Kaspars Berzins, VEF earned a hard-fought victory vs. Kalev in the Baltic derby (70-69).

But Riga failed to build on its early success. Kurtinaitis certainly wasn't thinking about 100 wins in 2010-11 as his team stumbled to a 3-7 record and missed out on the postseason. VEF's final game of the season was against Khimki. Few could have imagined then that the 1988 Seoul Olympics champion would switch sides a few months later...

***

Kurtinaitis took over at Khimki late in the 2010-11 season. Moscow Region parted ways with Sergio Scariolo in December 2010 and Oleg Meleshchenko struggled to turn things around. In mid-March, Khimki announced it had signed Kurtinaitis through the end of the season with an option for a one-year extension.

First Khimki win...

Kurtinaitis also won in his Moscow Region debut, though the stage was much bigger. Kurtinaitis's first game in charge came in the Final Four in Kazan. A little more than a month after the Lithuanian coach took over at Moscow Region, his club defeated UNICS in the semifinal, 84-78.

... and a first championship!

It got better from there. Khimki accomplished the unthinkable, defeating bitter rival CSKA, 66-64, in the championship game. Kurtinaitis's Khimki career couldn't have started better as he picked up a VTB United League trophy in only his second game!

***

Kurtinaitis was in complete control entering the 2011-12 season, making several offseason acquisitions and enjoying a full preseason. But the campaign got off to a rocky start as Moscow Region missed out on the Euroleague, coming up short in the qualifying tournament.

First streak

Kurtinaitis opened the 2011-12 VTB United League season vs. his former team, VEF Riga. Khimki enjoyed an 85-75 road win, a welcome boost after the disappointment of missing out on the Euroleague. More importantly, the victory ignited a three-month winning streak in the league.

The eight-game streak lasted from October 11, 2011 to January 3, 2012 and included wins vs. Zalgiris and UNICS. The streak finally came to an end against Krasnye Krylia with the Samara club picking up a shocking road win, 68-67.
Having started 8-0, the second half of the season wasn't nearly as smooth. Khimki went 4-4 down the stretch, finishing 2nd in Group A behind UNICS. In the semifinals, Kurtinaitis and co. faced Lietuvos Rytas and Jonas Valanciunas. Despite enjoying the home-court advantage, Khimki lost in three games and failed to defend its title. But Kurtinaitis compensated for the disappointment by leading his team to a Eurocup title.

***

2012-13 was a big year for Kurtinaitis. His club advanced to the Euroleague Top 16 and barely missed out on the quarterfinals. Not surprisingly, Khimki also enjoyed success in the VTB United League.

Psychologically important win

Few teams caused more problems for Kurtinaitis than Sergei Bazarevich's Krasnye Krylia. The most memorable game between the two teams took place on the final day of the regular season. The contest had huge playoff implications. Khimki needed a win to catch UNICS and finish 1st in Group A, while a loss would mean a 3rd-place finish and no first-round bye. Samara, meanwhile, had a chance to finish 2nd with a win and advance directly to the quarterfinals.

The game finished in dramatic fashion. Petteri Koponen gave Khimki a one-point lead, knocking down a tough '3' with 2.7 seconds to play. Krasnye Krylia had two chances to win it at the buzzer, but couldn't get a shot to fall, allowing Khimki to escape with a win.

The season culminated in a classic five-game series vs. archrival CSKA in the playoff semifinals.

Toughest win

Khimki failed to protect its home-court advantage, trading wins in Moscow Region to start the series. Game 3 in Moscow was a disaster. Zoran Planinic said after the game that it was Khimki's worst appearance in years. The visitors only managed to score five points in the 2nd quarter and found themselves staring at a 2-1 series deficit.

Despite the Game 3 disappointment, no one expected Kurtinaitis's club to fold in Game 4, even when CSKA jumped out to an early 10-point lead. Trailing by as much as 12 in the 4th quarter, Khimki put together an incredible comeback. Vitaly Fridzon caught fire, scoring 10 points in two minutes before Planinic won the game with a second left on the clock (77-75).

Game 5, nonetheless, went to CSKA, who went on to win the championship.

***

The following season was full of ups and downs. On the one hand, Khimki failed to win a trophy. On the other hand, Kurtinaitis made significant progress toward his 100th win and set several records. During the regular season, Khimki posted a perfect 18-0 record, twice knocking off mighty CSKA.

Record streak and win #50

Entering the game vs. CSKA, Khimki had won 12 in a row, matching the Army Men's previous record. The Yellow-Blues had already defeated CSKA once in an exciting, high-scoring affair in Moscow. The rematch was even better, gifting fans with one of the most memorable finishes in league history.

Khimki center James Augustine couldn't miss, shooting 12-12 from the field. Kurtinaitis also did a good job resting the big man, keeping Augustine fresh for the final minutes of the dramatic encounter. With the score tied, Khimki got a steal in the final seconds. Augustine came up with the ball and sprinted down the court, banking in a three at the buzzer to give his team the win (90-87). In addition to setting a new league record for longest winning streak, the victory was Kurtinaitis's 50th in the league.

***

Despite a disappointing finish to 2014 (Khimki got upset by Nizhny Novgorod in the quarterfinals), management extended Kurtinaitis's contract. Expectations were high for 2014-15 with the club determined to reach new heights.

Most exciting win

The regular season delivered yet another Khimki - CSKA classic. Both teams scored more than 100 points with plenty of lead changes and a terrific finish. Despite surrendering a big lead, Khimki enjoyed a slender two-point advantage with 21 seconds to play. Looking to close out the win, Khimki guard Tyrese Rice threw the ball away, giving CSKA possession. In a surprising twist, Moscow Region decided to foul immediately, sending Petteri Koponen to the free-throw line. The Finnish sniper drained both attempts, knotting the score at 104-104.

Kurtinaitis entrusted Rice with the final shot of the game. Left alone with Manuchar Markoishvili on the perimeter, Rice shook the Georgian defender and drained the '3' to give Khimki a 107-104 win!

Khimki dug itself out of an even bigger hole in the playoff semifinals vs. Lokomotiv-Kuban. Injuries crippled Khimki's frontcourt during the series. Trailing 2-1 after a loss in Game 3, Khimki looked unlikely to beat a highly-motivated Krasnodar team on the road in Game 4.

Most essential win

Playing without big men James Augustine and Paul Davis, Kurtinaitis made a few adjustments to the starting lineup, slotting Petteri Koponen into Egor Vyaltsev's normal spot. After a slow start, Khimki got hot from the perimeter. Moscow Region knocked down nine of 15 3-point attempts in the first half and held on for a 76-67 win in the second half.

Lokomotiv never had a chance in Game 5. Khimki cruised to a 17-point win, advancing the finals vs. CSKA.

The injuries eventually caught up with Moscow Region. Overpowered inside, Khimki dropped three straight to CSKA and finished 2nd in the league. While Kurtinaitis and co. came up a little short in the VTB United League, Khimki did win another Eurocup championship, earning a spot in the Euroleague.

***

During the summer of 2015, Khimki made several nice additions, looking to build a team deep enough to survive the playoffs...while also enjoying success during the regular season.

Highest-scoring win

"We were in the wrong place at the wrong time today," said Nymburk coach Ronen Ginzburg following his team's loss to Khimki. Nymburk got off to a great start, but ran into a Khimki buzzsaw on January 3. The Yellow-Blues stormed to a 52-point win, scoring 123 points, 2nd-most in league history.

Milestone victory

Kurtinaitis's 100th win was equally dominant. Taking on 0-17 Vita, Khimki coasted to a 108-52 victory, gifting Kurtinaitis with his 100th win in the VTB United League.

It's an impressive accomplishment. Kurtinaitis is the first coach in VTB United League history to win 100 games. He's seen a lot in almost six seasons, including some huge victories and several crushing defeats. Kurtinaitis started with a championship, but has yet to repeat the feat. After reaching the finals last season, Khimki is looking like a title contender once again. No one knows how the season will finish, but it's safe to say that Rimas Kurtinaitis is going to win a lot more games in the VTB United League. 

 

Most wins by a coach in the VTB United League

Name
Games
Wins
Losses
%
1. Rimas Kurtinaitis 136 100 36 73,5
2. Evgeny Pashutin 136 96 40 70,6
3. Sergei Bazarevich 101 61 40 60,4
4. Vasily Karasev 91 56 35 61,5
5. Dimitris Itoudis 57 52 5 91,2

 

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