loading...Please wait while content is loading.
Eric Musselman
Eric Musselman (USA) Head coach Venezuela men's national team

CARACAS (FIBA Americas Championship/FIBA Basketball World Cup) - Eric Musselman didn't look as if he was an admirer of Lithuanian Basketball after his Venezuela team fell to the Baltic giants at last year's FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT), but he is.

At the end of a tough, physical encounter between the sides on 3 July, one in which Lithuania had managed to build an 18-point lead by the end of the fourth quarter, their coach Kestutis Kemzura called a timeout with just seconds remaining, a decision that brought a chorus of boos from the partisan crowd in the Poliedro Arena in Caracas.

In the NBA or the American college game, to call a timeout in such a situation is like rubbing salt in the wound.

It simply isn't done.

But in international basketball, points differential is often called into play to determine places in the final standings and Kemzura wanted to beat the Venezuelans by as many points as he could.

After the game, Musselman stormed off the court with his players.

Lithuania, who heard boos for the rest of the tournament because of Kemzura’s timeout, went on to claim one of the three spots on offer for the London Games.

Several months on and Musselman, who is working on Herb Sendek's coaching staff at Arizona State University, has paid a huge compliment to Lithuania.

He marvels at their expertise in using the "slip screen", when an offensive player acts like he is going to set a screen when there is contact with the ball handler's defender but instead slips quickly to the rim.

"When we watched them on film, it was amazing," Musselman said to

"They did it to perfection and you can tell it was part of their coaching.

"They were the greatest ‘slip’ team that I've ever seen on pick-and-rolls.

"It was in their DNA. It wasn't just one player doing it, it was part of what they do."

The challenges

Despite the disappointment of not leading Venezuela to the Olympics, Musselman says that having a chance to work in the international arena against teams like Lithuania, Argentina and Brazil is something that he values a lot as a coach because of the enormous challenges he faces.

“The timeouts are different, substitution rules are different,” he said.

“And because it’s so much more physical, screen-setting becomes more important. There is a language barrier to some degree.

“I think all of those things make you a better coach and help you improve your craft.

"One year I came back with a completely new early offense that we had gotten from Argentina, and we incorporated what they do in Reno.

"They make the extra pass."

Continuing with Venezuela?

Musselman, who has served as a head coach in the NBA with Golden State (2002-04) and Sacramento (2006-07) and led teams in the NBDL, is in talks with Venezuelan Basketball Federation President Carmelo Cortez about possibly leading the team again this summer when the country hosts the FIBA Americas Championship and attempts to qualify for the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup.

He says that Cortez has sent him a contract to consider.

"We've had some really good conversations and we're still talking," Musselman said.

"Carmelo's been great. I love the players, (Greivis) Vasquez and I talk all the time. We have a great friendship.

"In saying that, we're still talking about some things because I have a job right now (at Arizona State) as well.

“But we're talking, it's moving in the right direction and like I said, Carmelo's been great about communicating.

"We'll see where we end up."