Just hours after failing to claim the BSL championship for the third time in six years, Maccabi Tel Aviv began its rebuilding process ahead of next season on Friday, surprisingly starting with its front office.
Maccabi sacked administrative manager Gur Shelef and is set to replace him with his former teammate at Maccabi, Croatian Nikola Vujcic.
Shelef, a former Maccabi captain, who took the place of Moni Fanan five years ago, was stunned by the news and Maccabi coach David Blatt didn’t hide his frustration with the decision after hearing about it in Friday’s meeting.
“I’m unhappy with the way with which this has come about,” Blatt said. “I need to study the decision before I say anything else, but this is a very difficult moment.”
The 35-year-old Vujcic, who won two Euroleague titles in six years at Maccabi (2002- 2008), played for Croatian side Split this past season while also occupying the general manager’s position.
After each of the previous two campaigns in which it dropped the league title over the past 20 years (2008, 2010), Maccabi replaced its coach.
However, Blatt is under contract and is set to continue.
“I’m not considering leaving,” said Blatt after the defeat to Maccabi Haifa. “I have a contract, and while I’m not the one who makes the decisions, I plan to continue. To lose in the final is hard and painful, but I’m not a quitter.”
Blatt will be overhauling the roster once more this summer.
Maccabi announced on Friday that it has exercised its option on Ricky Hickman, who led Tel Aviv with 28 points in Thursday’s 86-79 defeat to Haifa after also starring for the team throughout the season.
The yellow-and-blue also handed Shawn James a new four-year contract and is hoping to extend Devin Smith’s stay, although the swingman is considering lucrative offers from abroad.
Tel Aviv also plans to keep Israelis Yogev Ohayon, Guy Pnini and Sylven Landesberg, while David Logan, Nik Caner-Medley, Darko Planinic and Moran Roth will likely all have to find a new team. Maccabi has an option to cut Lior Eliyahu this summer, with his salary set to reach a cost of around $2 million next season.
Maccabi would like to maintain Eliyahu’s services but on a cheaper reconstructed contract.
Haifa is also set to have a new look next season, with Donta Smith the only foreign player under contract for 2013/14. Coach Brad Greenberg and captain Ido Kozikaro all also expected to continue, but the likes of Pat Calathes, James Thomas, Paul Stoll and Gal Mekel are all free players, putting the Greens in an awkward position as they look to build on their stunning championship.