Hapoel Tel Aviv coach Rami Hadar.
(photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
Rami Hadar’s first week as the head coach of Maccabi Tel Aviv could have hardly gone any better.
After taking over from Erez Edelstein, who was surprisingly sacked last Sunday, Hadar guided Maccabi to its second Euroleague win in three days on Friday night, an 87-74 triumph over Zalgiris Kaunas in Lithuania.
The yellow-and-blue lost its first two continental contests to Olimpia Milano and Real Madrid under the guidance of Edelstein, but is back at .500 (2-2) after eking out a 98-92 win over Galatasaray on Wednesday before finally also showing a defensive improvement on Friday. Maccabi had allowed an average 93.3 points in its first three games, but held Zalgiris to 17 or fewer points in three of four quarters on Friday.
“We played well defensively and that was the key,” said Hadar.
“Nevertheless, we are still not good enough in that aspect and we still have a long way to go.”
Hadar was full of praise for his players and believes the team is heading in the right direction.
“We were focused and managed to implement our game plan,” he explained. “I think we played with more intensity on both ends and that is an important change. The players made a big effort and I salute them.
“We won two games over 48 hours, overcoming physical and emotional stress,” added Hadar, who admitted he still hasn’t gotten used to the fact that he is Maccabi’s head coach. “I believe that we will be better in the future and I like what we are doing. We continued to improve tonight, but there is more we can do and change.”
Andrew Goudelock led five Maccabi players in double figures with 18 points. Devin Smith added 17 points and Sonny Weems scored 16 for Maccabi, which shot 23-of-37 from two-point range (62.2%).
Lukas Lekavicius had 16 points for Zalgiris, which fell to 1-3.
Maccabi returned home on Saturday and faces another busy week, visiting Hapoel Tel Aviv in the derby in BSL action on Monday before hosting Barcelona in continental play two days later.
“We did what we were supposed to and are going back to Tel Aviv with the win,” said Weems. “I’m excited about our team, we’re getting to know each other, this is only the beginning.”