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Basketball Coach Adamantly Defends Star Player’s Choice to Miss Playoffs for Child’s Birth

If only all coaches could have the perspective of Sarunas Jasikevicius. The 41-year-old head coach of Lithuanian Basketball League team BC Zalgiris reminded us all of what’s most important in life recently — and provided a beautiful explanation to a young reporter while doing so.

Zalgiris is a powerhouse club in the LBL with a rich and storied history. The team has reached the league finals every year of the LBL’s existence (dating back to 1993-94 season) and boasts former NBA stars and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famers Arvydas Sabonis and Sarunas Marciulionis as alums. Basically, it’s a big deal to play for Zalgiris — and so is winning.

So when the team’s star center, Augusto Lima, missed a semifinal round playoff game to be there for the birth of his daughter, a reporter questioned Jasikevicius about Lima’s absence in a postgame press conference. That’s when the coach decided to school the member of the media. Here’s the exchange:

Reporter: Coach, what do you think about Augusto Lima going away in the midst of a series to attend the birth of his child?

Jasikevicius: What do I think about it? I allowed him to go.

Reporter: But is it normal for a player to leave the team during the semifinals?

Jasikevicius: Do you have kids? When you have kids, youngster, you’ll understand. Because that’s the height of a human experience. Wow, that’s a good question, really. Do you think basketball is the most important thing in life?

Reporter: No, but a semifinal is important.

Jasikevicius: To whom is it important?

Reporter: The team.

Jasikevicius: Which one?

Reporter: Zalgiris.

Jasikevicius: Did you see the number of fans at the game? Important? When you see your first child, you will understand what the most important thing in life is. Because nothing can be more majestic in the world than the birth of a child. Not titles, not anything else. Augusto Lima is now in heaven emotionally. I’m really happy for him.

Can you imagine New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick or Alabama football head coach Nick Saban attempting to articulate what it’s like being a new parent, using such words as “the height of human experience” or “majestic” or being “in heaven emotionally” while doing so? I’d never heard of Jasikevicius before (and I’m a diehard sports fan), but he’s now one of my all-time favorite coaches simply for that response. And judging by Lima’s Instagram post announcing his baby girl Alba’s arrival, Jasikevicius wasn’t too far off in his description.

“Thank you for giving me the happiest day in the world,” Lima wrote in Spanish. “Thank you for letting me live that feeling of being a father. An indescribable feeling with words. It is undoubtedly the best gift of my life.”

As a father of two, I wholeheartedly concur. I’ve been fortunate to experience so many blessings in life. But being a parent to a pair of precious children is without a doubt what I’m most proud of.

And it turns out Zalgiris was just fine without Zima on the court that night. They defeated BC Neptunas 83-60 and eventually advanced to the Finals, where the club closed out BC Lietkabelis in dominating fashion, winning the best-of-7 series 4-1. It was the club’s seventh straight championship and 19th title overall. But as Jasikevicius and his big man can attest, the most important title earned in the last month by Lima may have been “father.”

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