The Pride of Hungarian Basketball was recently spotted in Lithuania, where he was doing scouting work for the Phoenix Suns. Former Žalgiris Kaunas big man/Hungary’s first-ever NBA player Kornél Dávid sat in on the Caja Laboral Baskonia game in Kaunas last week and afterwards granted an interview to Žalgiris radio.
(Naturally, Dávid doesn’t give name names or spill any Suns secrets, but BiE believes Phoenix must be taking a gander on Martynas “Air” Pocius, a potentially brilliant fit for the system there…)
The native of Nagykanizsa (for those not in-the-know, for some reason this town of about 50,000 produces disproportionate numbers of athletes) came up through the Hungarian League ranks with Honvéd Budapest where he’d ultimately help the top club top the championship in 1994. Dávid moved on to Albacomp Székesfehérvár and led that team to the 1997-98 title.
So began Dávid’s boomeranging between Hungary and the United States, as he played out a number of short-term contracts between 1997 and 2001 with the Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers, Toronto Raptors (inevitably) and Detroit Pistons.
In 2001, the Hungarian was back in Europe for good, first getting with IC Strasbourg in that year. His 2002-03 season with Žalgiris, which delivered an LKL championship, won Dávid the esteem of Greens fans forever; finally, he spent the remainder of his playing days in the ACB with Baskonia and Gran Canaria.
Below runs a version of the interview. An audio recording is available here, though unfortunately for Anglophones the English-language speech is overdubbed with Lithuanian. (It’s kinda too bad they used English; surely a running Lithuanian-Hungarian interpretation would be one of the great intellectual feats in recent history.)
Žalgiris Radio: So hello, Kornél.
ŽR: This is a big surprise for us – you are in Lithuania; what are you doing here?
Actually, I’ve always loved basketball and when I finished my basketball career, I didn’t want to leave the game so I joined with the Cleveland Cavaliers’ scout team. This summer I changed teams and now I’m working for the Phoenix Suns. As a scout, I’m looking for players, trying to gather information about them, I’m watching games, you know, that kind of stuff.
ŽR: So where do you spend more time now: In Europe or in the U.S.?
Well, as a scout I’m looking for more international players, but my job does take me to the U.S., too. So I live between the two continents.
ŽR: Can we expect to see any Žalgiris players with the Suns in the future?
I don’t know. My job basically is to provide information about individual basketball players. So if I see something very interesting, of course I’ll give my opinion to [the Suns front office], because only they make such decisions. But I hope there will be “Žalgiriečių” [on the team].
ŽR: Is this your first visit to Lithuania since leaving Žalgiris?
When I was with Tau Ceramica one time, I came back and played in Kaunas. Unfortunately, we lost the match. So this is the second time I’ve been back, but this time I’m back not as a player but as a scout.
ŽR: Did you find any familiar faces on the court now with Žalgiris?
It’s always great to come back to Lithuania. I loved to play here, I love the fans, the players – everything. Three players from when I was playing are still here: Dainius Salenga, Tadas Klimavicius and Paulius Jankunas, who was with the youth team at the time.
ŽR: Where did you play after Žalgiris?
I moved to Spain and spent three years with [Baskonia], and then spent two years with the Gran Canaria team. So the last five years of my career were in Spain.
ŽR: Have you ever thought about coaching?
Well, I never thought about it as a player because I thought I’d never get into coaching. I’m interested in every facet of basketball, of course, but I like what I’m doing now. It’s a very good fit for me.
ŽR: Some former Žalgiris players we’ve recently talked to are quite active in their own countries: Jiri Zidek is in the Czech basketball federation, Franjo Arapović was a member of parliament in Croatia. What are you doing in Hungary?
I have ongoing communication with the [Hungarian Basketball Federation]. My federation went through changes this summer, and there is a new president who invited me to work in the federation. I don’t know exactly what work and what role I would have, but I want to help the Hungarian basketball. And hopefully we’ll get it done soon.
ŽR: What are your memories of the Žalgiris team and fans?
Winning the Lithuanian Basketball League over Lietuvos Rytas, of course. We had a great team: Saulius Štombergas, Ainars Bagatskis, Mindaugas Timinskas, Gintaras Einikis, Tanoka Beard, Ed Cota – these are the guys I remember well. We played very well and I have really good memories on the court and off the court, too. For me – though everyone complains about the weather, [saying] “oh, it’s too cold” – I didn’t even have any problems with the weather. Everything was OK, really.
ŽR: How long will you be in Lithuania?
Oh, just a short time because I came in yesterday, I stay one more day and then I’m going to Barcelona for some games there.