An Interview with our Basketball Director, Marius Tamolis

Photo illustrating the news item

The first two seasons and just three victories. This was the difficult start for the women’s team of LCC International University, which has risen to the top at a fast pace.

The first two seasons and just three victories. This was the difficult start for the women’s team of LCC International University, which has risen to the top at a fast pace.

The LCC women’s basketball team, founded four years ago, this season participated in the final of the Queen’s Cup, the Baltic League, and the national championship series of the Lithuanian Women’s Basketball League. And in each of these finals, LCC came in second!

It is interesting to note that in 2020, LCC’s first game ever was against the team from Vilnius. In that first game, LCC lost 39 – 93. And this year, LCC played the same team in the national championship series.

These impressive results for the girls of the port city, according to Marius Tamolis, the director of the university’s basketball program and team leader, are impossible without the backstory of the community, which they felt from day one.

“We feel a lot of support from both the president and academia, because women’s basketball is not about supporting the elite, but more about communities and families,” said the Klaipeda native, who is known as the godfather of basketball at LCC. “That’s the uniqueness of our team. We’re small, but with a big heart and a lot of basketball baggage.”

The 42-year-old Tamolis has been working at LCC International University for 18 years and has been the head coach of the LCC men’s team for several seasons. In addition, the former strategist also worked at the Vladas Knašius Basketball School for 16 years, was a member of the staff of youth teams of various age groups and in 2015 took bronze with the U18 boys’ national team.  In 2017 he was part of the champion team of the World University Games.

The LCC coaching staff has no less experience. In the fourth season, Vilius Stanišauskas is at the helm of the women’s team, who led the Lithuanian U18 girls’ national team and in 2022 became the European champion with his team. This summer, the coach will also lead the twenty-year-olds and the European Girls’ U20 Championship in Lithuania.

Stanišauskas is assisted by former European champion and legendary basketball player Lina Brazdeikytė, and physical training coach of the Lithuanian national men’s team Robertinas Vilimas.

The website had a recent conversation with the architect of the LCC women’s team – memories of the difficult beginning of the LCC team, the ongoing growth of the organization, enthusiastic supporters and the specifics of the work of guys and girls and the desired continuity.

Marius, what did your beginning at LCC International University look like and what kind of basketball picture did you see when you arrived?I’ll tell you a lot and you can probably write a book about it here (laughs). Basically, I joined LCC 18 years ago. When I came back from America, I met a coach that I knew and we started with summer camp. At LCC, with a one-year break, I’ve been around for 18 years. That one-year break was when I worked as an assistant to strategist Paulius Juodis at Klaipeda’s Neptunas team.

The very idea of the LCC women’s team four years ago came naturally from the university itself, during a trip to Italy, when our men’s team played against American universities. That trip was successful and in one of the discussions, one of the sports directors of an American university asked where our women’s team was? We began to think about this idea and whether it was possible to create it at all. Homework began and for a year we looked at how to implement all this.

The university itself, along with the president and the administration, showed initiative, I was much more a technical executor and generator of all this idea. And we started with the arrival of our current fourth year student, the first Serbian, and two girls from Georgia.

The women’s league accepted us, and we had four players in our first training session in August 2020. I trained them and the first month I was also the strategist. Later, we were joined by girls from the Klaipeda basketball school, and we had 6-7 girls in training.

How did you manage to invite coach Vilius Stanišauskas, who is already in his fourth season, to the team?Vilius hadn’t been coaching a team that year and the situation helped. He had previously worked for LCC before leaving for the Neptunas men’s team, led by Kazys Maksvytis. Vilius had been an assistant coach at LCC before, so we had a connection since ancient times. We found common points and Vilius and I decided to do something. Our first game was against Vilnius, and although we lost the first match by maybe 50 points, after four seasons we recently fought with them in the finals.

After being a long-time strategist for the LCC boys’ team, was it difficult to get used to the slightly different specifics of the job when you started working with the girls’ crew?This choice came naturally, although I no longer train, but I am the program director. The specifics have changed, it was new to me, it was interesting. I am wrong a lot of the times, but I am also learning a lot. I am glad that there are people around me who help us both from the business side, from the Lithuanian Basketball Federation and from the city’s municipality. We also do a lot of other activities; we represent Klaipeda not only through basketball – we also organize social awareness campaigns, camps, events, we perform all the functions of the team.

I can say this way that women’s basketball is different, but interesting; it needs to be understood and accepted correctly. The emotion itself, dedication and professionalism are fantastic. The contribution of the federation and some clubs is felt; there are a lot of good things going on, and I believe it’s going to be a turning point for everyone.

You can’t develop both a men’s and women’s club according to the same recipe, because there are certain nuances that are different. There is also a difference in the viewer, communication between players and fans, working with sponsors. Everything is connected by the same sport, but it’s just different.

LCC’s growth as a basketball team is obvious. Last season you won the best MLKL (Women’s League) organization award; your home games are the most visited in the league. What drives this mechanism forward?I think it’s driven by all the fans and supporters here at LCC. Starting with the president who comes to  every game, the same mascot, although it’s a big secret as to who is in the costume. The community and the environment is fantastic, so we set goals and work. Everything at LCC starts with each of us in this whole formation.

As for the spectators, you have the largest fan base in MLKL; you invite them to the games in addition to various promotions. In your eyes, what’s the most important thing about growing the LCC community every year?It requires a lot of attention, but we see where we can grow; we follow global trends where women’s basketball is growing insanely. We have a lot of engaged students, volunteers; we have the next steps and an annual strategic plan. We want to grow not only from the sports side. The gym can’t always be filled with people and it’s a challenge to get them interested. Perhaps this, too, is one of the driving forces when everyone around is talking about it and seeing it. The league’s attitude is changing, and big steps are being taken to ensure that its development has an even stronger breakthrough, so we ourselves also want to prepare for it and grow together.

In the first two seasons of the LCC club, you had just 3 victories. What did your team’s growth process look like at the time and this difficult beginning that is now bearing fruit?The coronavirus pandemic ended our first season; obviously it was difficult. We had maybe 600 fans in the first game, it was a real celebration, we played against Vilnius. We knew what we were doing, and it would take us one or two years to go through to qualify for funding as the city’s representative team. In addition, for those first two years we worked for free to ignite the whole process.

There were very difficult moments. I remember the second year, the start of the season, I got sick with coronavirus; Vilius Stanišauskas can tell this story with his eyes closed. The team went to the first game in the Baltic League, Laurita Jurčiūtė was injured, and we left without her and lost to RSU 26 – 111. Vilius calls and says, “Marius, I know that you’re sick, but we have to do something.”

We have gone through many such stories, we know every defeat and victory. It was hard when you remember now; it was even horrible. Since the beginning of the team’s foundation, there have been three of us – me, Vilius and player Vanja Petrovič. We have been busy, we have seen everything and there have been very poor days. No one has given us anything and we have created everything ourselves. Everyone believed that someday that breakthrough year at LCC would happen and it happened as early as last year.

Now we have been chosen by the most talented young basketball players of our country – Gerda Raulušaitytė and Neda Pliatkutė. Also, players of the Latvian national team are Lina Loceniece and Elizabeth Bulane. We have chosen the American student-athlete model of sports and university and apply it to ourselves.

What do you most associate with the LCC team and colors and what are the key goals you’ve set for the next few years?For me, it is associated with Western universities, youthfulness, energy, and the sense of community. The environment there is buzzing with the lively enthusiasm and we want to continue this way. The youthful ideas, the young team, and I hope that working capacity will remain the same.

Looking at the future, the most important thing is continuity, strengthening all our fields; attracting sponsors, fans, and talented players. I want to maintain this stability for a few years, grow coaches and be a sustainable platform where everyone can have fun and feel valued. One day, LCC may have the opportunity to participate in a European tournament as well, but how it will go next – we shall see.

(Article adapted into English from the Lithuanian media. Printed in multiple media outlets including and

20 Jun 2024