Maccabi Rishon Le’Zion and Hapoel Jerusalem are two teams going in the opposite direction. Guy Goodes and his wine city squad are looking more and more like a team coming together just at the right time as the season heads into the final couple of months. Dainius Adomaitis on the other hand looked to be the captain of a rudderless capital city ship that is just going around in circles with no end in sight.
However, that end was made official Friday afternoon when the coach and club parted ways and assistant coach Yonatan Alon was named as interim coach for the balance of the season.
Since his arrival in the Holy Land, Adomaitis had never been able to earn the trust and faith of the players, plain and simple. They have not bought into the changes that he has and wants to institute which is a stark change from former bench boss Oded Katash’s style of play and the frustration can be found on the faces of both sides of the coin. That of the players and that of the Lithuanian coach.
Adomaitis had preached for weeks that the team looks terrific in practice and then in the actual games they fall apart and are totally different than what he sees on a day in day out basis at Malha. When asked about this, veteran Israeli center Idan Zalmanson made a facial expression that was worth a thousand words.
The big man did not back up the coach when asked if he felt if Adomaitis needed to be jettisoned and said that this was a management decision and that they are the players. Yet another answer worth its weight in gold as to how the team feels about their coach.
When Adomaitis himself was asked about the possibility of him leaving the team, he responded, “We will talk to management. If I feel that players don’t believe in the things that I am doing, that for me will be an easy decision. That decision is not hard.”
It certainly seemed that this decision was going to be coming sooner rather than later with the coach handing in the keys to the car which is exactly what happened.
Do the players deserve some of the blame? Most definitely, but the players outnumber one coach and it’s much harder to replace multiple players than just a one coach who does not have his own staff with him.
However, where does the blame ultimately lie? With management.
The buck stops at the top.
The day Adomaitis was introduced, Eyal Homsky of the ownership group said that he is amazing coach and one that will bring the title. Perhaps he was referring to the Lithuanian League title because it’s clear it’s not going to be the Israeli league in this lifetime.
Throughout the past couple of months there has been nary a peep from the club’s management. No vote of confidence for the coach, no comment about what the players could be doing to make things work out for the best. Radio silence from Homsky and CEO/GM Guy Harel.
Another question that still begs to be answered is why management didn’t just appoint assistant coach Yonatan Alon as interim head coach until the end of the season when Katash left. Alon who had been Oded Katash’s right hand man would have had the trust of the players and he would have continued the same style of play that the squad had been used to. We know how the last assistant coach appointment worked out for the Reds when Modi Maor took over for Fotis Katsikaris. He didn’t last very long and the trauma experienced by all parties was shall we say traumatic.
Adomaitis came in and right off the bat had to play key games in the Champions League, Balkan League and the Israel State Cup and failed each of those tests. He had a style of play that he wanted to implement but just wasn’t able to build up the trust of team while they were still in shock from the loss of Katash while losing key games. That then led to the mistrust between the players and coach. Also, at the start of his tenure with Jerusalem he criticized the players for not being in good enough shape which was direct criticism on their fitness coach Roberto Iezzi who not only has a brilliant fitness mind but is very much loved by all of those around him. That was the perfect recipe to get everyone off on the wrong foot.
The style of play that Adomaitis wanted to implement was a much rougher Lithuanian style and totally different than the free flowing style that Katash played with pick and rolls. Under Adomaitis they really didn’t use the PNR and the offense was very stagnant. This wasn’t Hapoel Jerusalem basketball.
Jerusalem had a rough season even with Katash as they had to deal with many injuries and who knows how far the club would have actually gone, but they shot themselves in the foot by bringing in Adomaitis mid-season. Maybe the move would have worked out for the better if the appointment would have been made after the season and he could have had a part in building the new squad, but that is something we will never, ever know.
Was this team flawed from the get go this season? For sure, there is no question about that. But it was clear that Alon would have gotten a lot more out of this Jerusalem team than Adomaitis unfortunately was able to. At this point the Reds have to go into some serious damage control and just get through the end of this campaign as best as they can and then rebuild the team from scratch immediately after it ends. Will that be with Alon? Time will tell.
WILSON SHOWS THE EX
As for the game itself, former Reds forward Jamil Wilson who now plies his trade for Rishon Le’Zion couldn’t have had a better game against his Ex. A game opening triple and four for the game and a total of 16 points showed everyone exactly what Wilson can do on the offensive end, but its as also his lockdown defense that was spectacular and helped Rishon to the win.
“What I had dreamed that I would get when signing Wilson was exactly what we saw today,” explained Goodes. “His size, game play and the way he lea the defense. Jeremy Pargo recommended that we should sign him when he was released by Jerusalem as he was familiar with him playing against one another over various summers.”
Wilson also spoke about playing against his now teammate Pargo, “I’ve played against Pargo many times mostly in the summer but to play with him and to see what he can do at his career is exceptional and he is a great talent. I wish I could have played with him at the height of his career but he’s pretty damn good, he’s a great player.”
As for wanting to show Jerusalem that they had made a mistake by releasing him, Wilson didn’t hide his feelings about the topic, “I always have something to prove, you play to be the best you can be as a person and individual and to be better than the day before. I’m happy we had a game tonight and I was able to do so. You can see it’s personal in your heart and when you let go by a team you want to prove that you’re better than that.”
One of Jerusalem’s biggest issues on the court this season has been giving up one big run after the next. Just this week, Jerusalem allowed Nes Ziona go on an 18-0 run but they were able to weather the storm and in this game Rishon went on a decisive 11-0 run that put the game away for the hosts. “This is our problem all of the time and we can’t control the opponents runs,” said Adomaitis. “We give up easy points and this makes a huge difference. Their second chance and fast break points make such a difference. You can’t play the game and win the game when you go just four times to the free throw line and you’re not aggressive enough. Our biggest problem is controlling the runs.”
Zalmanson also referenced the issues that the team is going through on the floor, “We’re not good right now and we’re breaking apart mentally. We have to play better and we can’t look like we did, we’re just not good enough right now and you can see that. I can’t put my finger on something specific and it’s just not working. We have to make a decision, we are still in a spot that we can determine our destiny, but this is a reflection as how we are playing. We have to look in the mirror row.” That’s got to be a pretty big mirror.
What does Adomaitis think his team needs to do in order to compete with Maccabi on Monday night? “Come with a completely different mentality. Every one has to be do or die. We have to make a good decision and play to the end with everyone giving more than 100%.” However, who will be behind the bench for that game and will Adomaitis survive until then?