Lithuania NT coach Maksvytis invites Mark Cuban to his hometown after surprising discovery

Donatas Urbonas
Senior Staff Writer
2022-09-03 16:31

Lithuanian national team head coach Kazys Maksvytis dreams of inviting Mark Cuban to a small town in Lithuania after an unexpected discovery of the Dallas Mavericks owner's family roots.

Credit: BNS/E.Ovčarenko/Imago Images/Scanpix
Credit BNS/E.Ovčarenko/Imago Images/Scanpix

What are the odds of having the Lithuanian national team head coach and one of the wealthiest NBA owner's grandmother born in the same small town of 1,500 thousand people?

The BasketNews story of the Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and his ties with a Lithuanian town shook up the people of Darbenai.

"What you don't know is that I'm 25% Lithuanian. My grandma is from Darbenai. I got to root for Luka, but there's a part of me that if it's not Luka, I'm cheering for Lithuania," Cuban smiled in an interview with BasketNews at halftime of Slovenia's game vs. Lithuania.

When BasketNews published a story the following morning, the national team coach Maksvytis received a few text messages that weren't linked to the great EuroBasket opener game.

"I quickly received a few messages both from Darbenai people and my American friends. We knew nothing about it. That's very interesting," a 45-year-old coach smiled.

Darbenai is a small town in Klaipeda County, in northwestern Lithuania. But the locals have huge pride in their homeland. 

They also followed Maksvytis to different Lithuanian cities when he was successfully working in the Lithuanian basketball league as the head coach of Neptunas Klaipeda and Lietkabelis Panevezys.

Maksvytis was the youth national team coach of the New Orleans Pelicans center Jonas Valanciunas and the 2002-born generation.

Under Maksvytis' guidance, they won gold medals in all four major FIBA Europe competitions (U16, U18, U20) and FIBA U19 World Cup.


In 2012, Maksvytis became the honorary citizen of Kretinga county. Now he is the head coach of the biggest basketball club in Lithuania, Zalgiris Kaunas.

When he read the BasketNews article on Friday morning, he did his research.

"Cuban's grandmother lived in Darbenai but later left for the United States and changed her surname. It's exciting. I believe Darbenai citizens also heard this story for the first time. That's an extraordinary person," Maksvytis said BasketNews.

Cuban and his Lithuanian roots were also discovered by a local individual guide and the researcher of Jewish heritage Marius Galadauskas.

Once, he noticed some strange fact on Cuban's website. Dorbyan, Russia, was listed as his grandmother Sarah's hometown.

"Until 1917, Lithuania was part of Imperial Russia. So all the Jews that lived in Lithuania were listed as Russian citizens. I wrote about it to one of the Cuban's lawyers, and they showed their interest," Galadauskas said BasketNews.

After exchanging emails, Cuban's grandmother's birthplace was changed to Darbenai, Lithuania.

According to Kretinga county Darbenai gymnasium teacher Edita Gliozeriene, who has studied Jewish heritage for years, a huge Frankel/Freintel family was living in Darbenai.

It is well respected historical Jews area among the community.

Credit Edita Gliožerienė

Sarah left Darbenai during an unprecedented Jews emigration from Darbenai. She and her family left for the USA, one of the most popular emigration destinations.

According to Gliozeriene, Sarah's name was mentioned on Freintels immigration registration card in Oklahoma.

The teacher still keeps connected with Freintel relatives from Texas to this day.

She initiated the building of the Remembrance apple tree for the Jewish community in Darbenai. One apple was specially dedicated to the Freintel family.

Credit Edita Gliožerienė

Following the triumph in the 2011 FIBA U19 World Cup, Darbenai has organized a 3x3 basketball tournament every summer under Kazys Maksvytis' name.

After discovering Mark Cuban's Lithuanian roots, Maksvytis would love to show him around Darbenai.

"My dream would be to invite him to our annual 3x3 basketball tournament in Darbenai," coach Maksvytis smiled.

"Only if there will be an opportunity and our paths will cross I'll give him this invitation. It's interesting how small the world is," Maksvytis concluded.

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