“They threw us in the Colosseum with lions & tigers” Sfairopoulos takes on schedule instead of reflecting on own decisions

Jan 3, 2022 | Holyland Hoops

If one thought that after Maccabi Tel Aviv’s win over Jerusalem on Saturday night would send them on their way and get them back on track, boy were they mistaken. The Yellow & Blue were throughly dominated by Bnei Herzliya and their former youth coach Oren Aharoni, falling 71-59 in a terrific defensive display by the hosts.

Yes, you read right, 59 points. In fact the last time Maccabi had scored so few was back in 2017 when they lost to Hapoel Jerusalem 65-57. Not a good showing, not a good showing at all especially coming off a high with a win over the capital city reds. Coach Ioannis Sfairopoulos looked to put the blame on everyone but his own team who didn’t surface and meet the challenge that they had in front of them.

Ioannis Sfairopoulos – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

“It’s obvious the result was from the energy we didn’t have as this was the 3rd game in 5 days and we played less than 48 hours ago,” Sfairopoulos said. “We had a promise that we wouldn’t play back to back games from the Minhelet (league administration). We have played many games this season and had to play against a team that played only once a week and that showed that we were out of fuel when we scored only 11 points in the last quarter.”

The bench boss continued, “We believe in all of the players and they (the Minhelet) threw us in the Colosseum with lions and tigers without energy and without one more day to play the game. The players tried and they missed many open shots. We were close and we tried to stay in the game and you see the many open shots that we missed. We had open shots and we missed as we didn’t have legs to shoot.”

HOLD IT! Full Stop! Did Sfairopoulos actually say the following? “They (the Minhelet) threw us in the Colosseum with lions and tigers without energy and without one more day to play the game.” Really? This is coming from the head coach of Maccabi Tel Aviv?

Maccabi Tel Aviv – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

Maccabi Tel Aviv arguably the deepest team in Israel. Arguably the most talented team in Israel. Arguably the best team in Israel.

And Sfairopoulos is complaining and comparing the situation to the Colosseum in Rome being thrown to the lions and tigers?

Methinks I have now heard it all.

This is Maccabi Tel Aviv. This is the 6x European Champion. This is the 55x Israeli League Champion. This is the 45x Israel State Cup Winner.

Why does it sound as if this is the coach of a small team that keeps getting the bad breaks?

The comments and excuses are embarrassing.

With Maccabi Tel Aviv’s depth there should be no issue with fresh legs and energy. Let’s take a look at why that is the case.

Jalen Reynolds – Photo Credit: Basket.co.il

First off, Sfairopoulos dressed two imports in Kameron Taylor and Jalen Reynolds for the Herzliya game that did not play against Jerusalem. Taylor who has been disappointing all season long scored 3 points and played only 9:48 with all of that time coming in the first half as he did not see the court for a second over the gins two frames. Reynolds fouled out after playing 23:40 of serviceable basketball scoring 11 points and grabbing 8 rebounds, however, he also coughed up the ball 4 times.

Roman Sorkin who played only one minute against Jerusalem checked in with 16:40 at Herzliya (and could have and should have played more) and scored 9 points while pulling down 8 boards but turning the ball over 3 times.

Jake Cohen played only 14 minutes in each of the last two games and shouldn’t have has a problem playing more minutes than that.

Finally guard Oded Brandwein didn’t play in both games (along with youngster Ido Menchel). Now if you have a player who is dressed and he’s wearing a Maccabi Tel Aviv uniform then he has to be good enough to play at least an Israeli league game. If he is not good enough, then why is he on the team?

Noam Dovrat – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

And if that is also the case, how is it possible that Maccabi was reported to say thanks but no thanks when they were offered Noam Dovrat from Maccabi Rishon Le’Zion and landed up at Hapoel Jerusalem?

That is a perfect example of Maccabi NOT signing the best available Israelis which is something that the Yellow & Blue have historically been known for.

What has become of the empire once known as Maccabi Tel Aviv?

On the other side of the court at Bnei Herzliya there are 3 individuals that can be identified as ones who could help Maccabi Tel Aviv immediately.

The first is no doubt big man Chinanu Onuaku. The 25-year old has been a force to reckon with on both sides of the court all season long playing top level defense and closing out the paint magnificently while scoring in bundles at the other end. It was clear that the brother of former Maccabi big man Arinze Onuaku was looking to play well and put on a good performance after the last time the two sides met, “The season is going well and I try to do the best I can on the floor. They are a Euroleague team and you always mark that on your calendar.”

Chris Babb – Photo Credit: Basket.co.il

Chris Babb is another player who could easily slot into the backcourt and can play a myriad of positions form the 1 to the 3. That being said, his showing in the second half showed why he would be a perfect fit for Maccabi as he can score in bundles and when his team needs it most.

Onuaku spoke about the qualities Babb has that makes him an elite player for Herzliya,
“He means a lot to us and he can space the floor. He can guard a 3-man and he’s definitely a threat.”

Quinton Hooker who nailed a huge triple at the end of the first half also chimed in on Babb’s importance to the team, “Chris did what he’s been doing all season for us and that was making big plays. His ability to catch fire is a great threat for our offense and can open up games for us like it did tonight.”

Last but not least the third person who could make that move is head coach Oren Aharoni. The now Herzliya bench boss was right under Maccabi Tel Aviv’s nose in their youth department over the past few years and he has shown this season that he is more than capable of coaching a senior level team. Perhaps Aharoni will one day come back to Maccabi as he gains valuable experience and maybe he is the next in line to guide the Yellow & Blue.

Maccabi Tel Aviv – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

It’s clear that Maccabi Tel Aviv has to make some serious changes and if anyone thought that the win over Hapoel Jerusalem solved all, well, it didn’t.

Maccabi needs to make changes and they need to get better and fast as the European season seems to be heading the wrong way quickly with 8 losses in a row while the Israeli season with a 8-5 record is not what the Yellow & Blue ever envisioned. There’s also a State Cup quarterfinal date up at Galil Elyon in just a couple of weeks and the last time the two teams played there it took Maccabi double overtime to win. That is not something that Maccabi would want to repeat.

However, if changes aren’t made, a loss at Galil Elyon is certainly a possibility and more defeats in the Israeli league will become even more common place.

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