After a season marked by his club's remarkable achievements on and off the court, Zalgiris Kaunas president Paulius Motiejunas has been voted as the Gianluigi Porelli EuroLeague Executive of the Year by his peers across the continent. Motiejunas, the long-time chief executive of a club that is the pride of Lithuanian basketball, was the guiding force behind the coaching genius, hard-working players and inspired fans who lifted Zalgiris to a historic Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Final Four appearance last season. The Executive of the Year award honors the person and club whose management decisions have best exemplified the EuroLeague's commitment to excellence in all facets of club direction during the previous season. Among the categories considered before casting votes are sporting merits, game-day experience, attendance, ticketing programs, marketing and communications.
As Zalgiris's president, Motiejunas was the man who promoted Sarunas Jasikevicius to head coach in January 2016 and in the years since has constructed a roster in his coach's image that took the EuroLeague by storm in 2017-18. By meshing promising players, both from Lithuania and abroad, together with experienced veterans, he created a team with a clear hierarchy and a winning mentality. Motiejunas's eye for talent allowed him to put together a Final Four squad this season on the heels of a strong 2016-17 campaign. After team captain Robertas Javtokas retired and joined the front office, three were acquired by fellow EuroLeague teams and a promising talent left to try his luck overseas. In their place, Motiejunas found dedicated, hungry and talented replacements who will long be remembered in Kaunas for a magical season.
Motiejunas has spent more than a decade with Zalgiris, where he served as director of communications and played major roles in the management of Zalgirio Arena before becoming the club's general manager and, currently, its president. Zalgiris pilots an uncommon setup in the European sports world, where the basketball club and arena are managed by the same office. Accordingly, Motiejunas oversees a staff that works on both fronts and their success is intertwined. Zalgiris brings fans in droves who are treated to a world-class arena game experience. The better the arena fares in organizing concerts, exhibitions and other sporting events, the more profits there are to be shared with the basketball club. Motiejunas is also a member of the board at Vytautas Magnus University, where Motiejunas completed his education with a master's degree in international relations and where the EB Institute's MBA graduate program is now hosted.
The Gianluigi Porelli EuroLeague Executive of the Year award is one of the competition's two annual post-season honors, along with the Alexander Gomelskiy Coach of the Year Trophy. The award recognizes those whose efforts build Turkish Airlines EuroLeague clubs into success stories. Mr. Porelli, who served as president of Virtus Bologna for more than two decades, was among the founders of ULEB and later its president. He passed away in 2009.
Motiejunas succeeds Fenerbahce Dogus Istanbul general manager Maurizio Gherardini asexecutive of the year. The award has been issued annually since 2005. WithMotiejunas's selection, representatives of 12 different clubs have now captured the honor.