Algimantas Pavilonis:
Officiating is a science or even art form!

The VTB United League expert on officiating questions Algimantas Pavilonis agreed to an interview with our website. The experienced inspector discussed his new position and objectives, in addition to sharing the primary characteristics of modern officiating.

- Tell us about your basketball experience and the nature of your prior partnernship with the VTB United League?
- I’ve worked in the basketball world for a long time already. For eight years I served as president of the Lithuanian Federation, then for fourteen years I directed my native country’s national team and helped to organize their games.
I’ve worked with the VTB United League since its founding. We’ve solved a lot of problems together and always assisted one another, so we’ve already got an established relationship. I’m confident that working together more formally will be a good experience.

- What objectives have you been given? What will be your primary responsibilities?
- Everything will be aimed at establishing excellent officiating. I will not only meet with and talk with referees, but also direct the whole process. One of my challenges is to perfect and raise the level of expertise in this arena.
It’s not that easy to do – right now there are a lot of competitions and the best referees are always in demand. You’ve got the Euroleague, Eurocup, national competitions, which makes the organizational side of things rather difficult.

-It’d be interesting to hear your expert opinion – how do you rate the current level of officiating in basketball?
- I worked in Ukraine for three years as general director of their league. I often heard people say: «Why did we lose?…Because the refs are bad!» The coaches and players made mistakes, maybe they weren’t prepared for the season, but the refs always got the blame. That’s just not possible.
You know, if you compare it with when I played, then the level of officiating has risen considerably. You can’t even compare. Unfair biases have almost entirely disappeared – the referees are professionals now. Of course, we can’t discount the human factor – sometimes it’s difficult to notice a glancing touch or a foul in the heat of the moment. But, if you know and understand basketball, then it’s much easier to work. There are also nuances to officiating in each country: different approaches to certain plays, different criteria for calling fouls. That’s fine. Officiating is an entire science or maybe even an art form!

- How did you get involved in officiating?
- I’ve dabbled in almost every professional aspect of basketball, except working as a team doctor. I’ve played, coached, managed, and served as a commissioner. Of course, I wouldn’t be able to officiate at the highest level of basketball, because I don’t have the proper reaction time and experience. On the other hand, I can assess plays on replay, look at it from a distance and determine when mistakes are made.

- What do you expect out of your work with the VTB United League?
- The VTB United League is still young and it needs to reach maturity. This organization is only a few years old, but it’s managed to find its own place. The league undeniably has advantages over the other European leagues and competitions. First, the quality of the teams is very high. Second, they play in a developed market. Just look at how many countries and sponsors are represented in this league. The ability to generate financial profits is essential for any club. Thanks to a solid financial foundation, this problem is addressed successfully in the VTB United League. When you’ve got good conditions, then good arenas, players, television contracts, and, of course, referees are close behind.