Maccabi Tel Aviv fell to Red Star Belgrade 83-58 at the Pionir Arena in Serbia, the site of Maccabi’s first ever European Championship back in 1977, one of the franchises historical moments if not the defining moment of the Yellow & Blue. Unfortunately, the Pionir Arena was again the site of a moment in time one more tragic for Maccabi, its now ex-coach Rami Hadar and management.
The first ended with the hosts holding a five point lead 19-14 as Nate Wolters led the Serbian side with 6 points while Colton Iverson led the Yellow & Blue effort with 4 points. Maccabi pulled down 9 rebounds, but also turned over the ball 5 times, a hint as to what would happen the rest of the way.
Red Star took control of the matchup in quarter number two heading into halftime with a 42-24 lead, and yes, Maccabi scored only 24 points in 20 minutes of basketball going 0/9 from 3-point land and not shooting one (!) free throw. Not good.
The third quarter saw a total implosion by Maccabi going down 65-42. At one point in the frame Gal Mekel had not played a minutes, Sylven Landesberg played 1:47 and Guy Pnini 1:54. Andrew Goudelock, Victor Rudd and Devin Smith had 2 points a piece at that same junction midway through the third and as they say the rest is history. Garbage time filled the balance of the game with Maccabi shooting 6/23 from beyond the arc and not taking one foul shot, a Euroleague first for the full 40 minutes.
1) I waited to write this column to see if Rami Hadar would quit, be fired or stay on but we all kind of knew that at some point on Friday after watching the Maccabi Head Coach being interviewed on TV and seeing his state when he landed this morning in Israel that he would be gone. Everyone wanted to see what the end result would be and we got it a little after 1pm Israel time. Hadar is the second to coach to hit the road this season after management had sacked Erez Edelstein prior to the start of the season. I liked Hadar. I liked that he was somewhat of a basketball outsider, a rough but strong personality and someone who I felt knew the X’s and O’s of the game. Watching him coach Maccabi Haifa, one could see that he knew what he was doing and took Maccabi to school last season, but one thing I couldn’t figure out was why he was so rigid in his thoughts and beliefs, especially when it came to Gal Mekel and Sylven Landesberg not getting any real minutes in the Euroleague. We all asked the question and kept getting the same answer, it’s my decision, it’s my professional choice, answers that we all, the journalists and the fans couldn’t understand. Even though Hadar is now no longer the coach, I’d still like to know why. But I’d also like to know why he didn’t change his philosophy when he saw that the ship was sinking. In today’s day and age, any person in any job needs to know how to change and adjust. Rami Hadar just was unable to do so. Why is still the question that I’d like to know the answer of.
2) At some point the players need to take some kind of responsibly for the mess that Maccabi is in. But what can you do, the Israelis are barely playing and they are the ones that really understand the importance of Maccabi Tel Aviv. Not Sonny Weems, not Andrew Goudelock, not Maik Zirbes and on and on, the foreigners are here to go to work and collect a salary. Israelis know what Maccabi Tel Aviv is and means to everyone in Israel, from the North and to the South and it pains me to see what kind of mess the team has become since capturing the Euroleague Championship under David Blatt in 2014. Somehow Maccabi needs to go back to the basics and find those players who have the DNA to play on the Yellow & Blue. People have to understand that it’s a privilege and not a right.
3) After the players there is management, they also have to do some soul searching and find a way to get Maccabi out of the rut. They, more than anyone else has the most invested in the team be it financially or working day and night. Somehow they all need to get on the same page, sooner rather than later or else the fans are in for another disappointing season. At least this year they can’t play in the EuroCup.
I had seriously thought of going on this away game, thinking that it would a tight contest in a wonderful historical arena with great atmosphere. In the end it was a wise choice not to travel, though I did miss out on some terrific fan action. It’s frustrating to see Maccabi right now, but yet they are still the team of many, many who are hoping and praying that the ship gets righted quickly.
They said it
Rami Hadar: Is this one of the worst evenings in Maccabi’s history? I accept that description. Personally, I’d rather keep my thoughts to myself at this time. It’s hard to say anything after such a tough loss.”
Guy Pnini: “When confidence is low and nothing’s going right, nights like these happen. There are no words to describe what we’re dealing with out on the floor these days. We sit and talk about how to do better, then we go out there and try our best but nothing’s going our way. We’re still the same team who beat Olympiacos and Fenerbahce. We just have to get back to playing positive basketball.”