Back in July when Hapoel Jerusalem named Fotis Katsikaris I wrote a piece entitled “Time will Tell” about his hiring where I outlined why it was a good hire by Ori Allon and Guy Harel. I also put in a number of caveats which included that time will tell if he would be the right man to steer the Red ship to the promised land. However, it didn’t take long to realize that Katsikaris was not the right person to be at the head of this team, unfortunately not long at all.
It began with at the media day where the fact that the Head Coach didn’t have a full roster for training camp due to the Eurobasket was already being used as an issue. It then continued to Holon where Jerusalem was ousted in the quarterfinals by Nahariya in a game that saw a number of players complaining about playing time, substitutions and kvetching to Allon and Harel after the game about the coach’s decisions.
Next came the first game of the regular season up in Nahariya where I witnessed firsthand the players again being non responsive and unwilling to go with the flow of coach Katsikaris, not warming up before the second half and being unhappy with substitutions. In my “Time will Tell” piece I wrote that the coach “enjoys talking to the press, well at least for now.” At least for now ended that night when he didn’t respect the questions that were asked about the players behavior and then went on a rant about how there are all kinds of issues in the lockerroom. He said that he was sarcastic, but as I wrote following the game, there is always some seriousness in sarcasm. How true it would be that the coach had not connected with his players and most importantly the star of the team Curtis Jerrells.
Next came an uninspiring loss in Lithuania against Lietkabelis, a too close to comfort league win against Rishon Le’Zion at home and a brutal home defeat to Buducnost. The evening before the contest, Jerrells called the coach out for the lack of defensive work which led to him being cut by the team prior to the next home game against Hapoel Tel Aviv which Jerusalem won in fine fashion. However, that would be Katsikaris’s only bright spot as the team went on to lose to Bayern Munich at home, defeat Reggio Emilia in a poor display and lose convincingly to Ashdod and Galatasaray at home to end his term much earlier that he would have liked.
Katsikaris was never able to get the players to buy into his philosophy and wasn’t able to connect with them whatsoever. Was it because he had never won anything and the players had? Was it coming in to fill the big shoes that Simone Pianigiani left? Was it the roster that was built? Was it not bringing back Amare Stoudemire? Was it not playing to the strengths of his star in Curtis Jerrells?
It’s all of those reasons and you can add to that his interaction with the press. Every coach likes easy softball questions, but when it comes to the harder critical queries that’s where the cream rises to the crop and Katsikaris was unable to do that. Not only did he give a number of journalists a tough time including yours truly, but he also used the pressers to consistently criticize his players. And that will never earn you a dozen roses.
An untested Modi Maor is now the man in the spotlight, as the 32-year old becomes a head coach for the first time. He’s dominant and a forward thinker, the only question is will he be the man leading the way for the rest of the season. There is no talk of a new assistant coming in with experience which leads me to believe this may only be a temporary fix. When new Israel National Team Coach Oded Katash was asked if he could take a head coaching job when he was introduced, he answered in the affirmative. This is definitely a story to keep an eye on.
But right now Maor has to see how he will save the Reds EuroCup campaign as they sit 1-4 with 5 games remaining, 3 of which are on the road and the next game against Lietkabelis at home this coming Wednesday night. That game may be the final nail in their continental campaign and that would be a tragedy after the steps that the team took last season.