Maccabi TA's David Blu 311.
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Effi Birenboim is widely regarded as one of the greatest coaches in Israeli
The 57-year-old Maccabi Rishon Lezion coach became
just the fifth Israeli to reach 300 league wins last season, joining Yehoshua
Rozin (448), Pini Gershon (367), Tzvika Sherf (317) and Ralph Klein
Birenboim overtook Klein earlier this season and is currently at
310 wins, but what makes Effi’s success over his 26 years as a head coach
especially impressive is the fact that he achieved it all with teams not named
Maccabi Tel Aviv, spending just a couple of months as yellow-and-blue coach
before being sacked in November 2008.
However, for all his
accomplishments, Birenboim only has one title on his resume, guiding Bnei
Herzliya to the cup in 1995.
Birenboim has now led five different teams
to the cup final after Rishon claimed a 78-71 semifinal win over BC Habika’a on
Monday, but with an inform Maccabi Tel Aviv awaiting Effi’s men at Nokia Arena
on Thursday night, the veteran coach has still got an uphill battle on his hands
to finally lift another piece of silverware.
The daunting prospect of
facing Maccabi has resulted in Birenboim looking to the NBA for a source of
Birenboim used the remarkable rise to stardom of New York
Knicks guard Jeremy Lin to motivate his players and instill the belief that
despite being clear underdogs, they can beat Tel Aviv against all
“The fire in our eyes has got is this far and we’ve got one more
game to go to lift the cup,” said Birenboim, who hopes to lead Rishon to its
first ever title.
“Being the underdog gives us a further push. We know
our place and Maccabi’s place, but we believe in our ability.
usually pressures its opponents from the start of its games at Nokia and we will
have to be ready for them and take it one quarter at a time.”
which is going for its third straight cup and 39th in club history, thrashed
Hapoel Holon 91-70 in its semifinal, but will be wary of Rishon after only
barely edging Birneboim’s men 76-75 in BSL action two months ago.
which has not lost a game by more than five points all season, is extremely
dependent on its four American players.
Joe Crawford (20.0 ppg, 3.9 rpg),
Derwin Kitchen (15.2 ppg, 7.6 rpg), Adrian Uter (15.2 ppg, 7.5 rpg) and Brandon
Bowman (15.2 ppg, 7.0 rpg) account for more than 81 percent of the team’s points
and 85 percent of its rebounds.
The four Americans also scored 65 of
Rishon’s 78 points in the semifinal win over Habika’a, with Birenboim only
having two Israeli players of significance.
Nitzan Hanochi (8.2 ppg) and
Amit Ben-David (6.7 ppg) share ball handling duties and could be the x-factor in
“I think we have proven we deserve to be in the final,”
Hanochi said. “Rishon hasn’t been in the cup final in 20 years and the entire
city is waiting for this game. We are aware of the differences between the
teams, but we are very hungry to succeed and will give our best.”
had no answer for Lior Eliyahu and Devin Smith, who scored 20 points each in the
semis, and Maccabi coach David Blatt will also have Sofoklis Schortsanitis at
his disposal on Thursday after the injury suffered by the Greek center on Monday
proved to be minor.
“We know Rishon is an excellent team,” Blatt said.
“They have proven it throughout the season.
We want to defend the title
we won last season and we are not taking anything for granted. We are excited
ahead of this game and we will give our all.
“Rishon is not used to
playing twice a week, but this is a cup final and nobody will be tired. This is
a game everyone wants to win.”