It is a well known fact that many of those involved in the world of sports, be
it fans, players or journalists, suffer from a short term memory.
criticism leveled at Maccabi Tel Aviv coach David Blatt over the past couple of
weeks is truly baffling.
Sure, Maccabi has registered several
disappointing results in recent weeks, including two straight defeats in the
However, you would have thought Blatt had done enough in the
first year-and-a-half of his second stint as yellow-and-blue boss to be given a
whole lot more respect than he is currently being shown.
It is now easy
to forget, but Maccabi was in complete disarray when Blatt entered the fray in
the summer of 2010.
Maccabi had just dropped its second Israeli league
title in three years, something which hadn’t happened since the 1960’s, and
failed to make it past the quarterfinal stage of the Euroleague for a second
But far more crucially, it had also completely lost
touch with its core values, resulting in its reputation reaching an all-time
The Moni Fanan scandal and the embarrassing behavior of Blatt’s
predecessor Pini Gershon had seemingly tarnished the club’s name beyond repair,
but Blatt played a significant role in helping Maccabi reconnect with its
supporters, as well as Israeli sports fans in general.
through five coaches in four seasons, Maccabi had finally found the leader it
had been looking for, with Blatt guiding the team to the BSL championship and
State Cup after suffering just a single loss all season to an Israeli opponent,
while also vastly exceeding expectations by taking the team to the Euroleague
The only thing Blatt was guilty of was doing too
The 2010/11 campaign was supposed to be one of rebuilding for
Maccabi, but instead it has become the bar by which Blatt is measured, setting
an almost impossible benchmark to meet.
The future seemed extremely
bright last summer, with key players Sofoklis Schortsanitis, Lior Eliyahu, David
Blu and Guy Pnini all being signed at least through this season. With
star playmaker Jeremy Pargo also agreeing to a two-year contract extension in
May, Maccabi looked to have a core of players that would all but guarantee
But just as Pargo was the catalyst to Maccabi’s resurgence last
season, he is also one of the main reasons Tel Aviv has been chasing its own
tail for much of this term.
Pargo notified the team in August that he
would like to opt out of the two-year deal as he wants to play in the NBA,
eventually signing with the Memphis Grizzles following the end to the
Maccabi was awarded $270,000 in compensation from Pargo by a
FIBA arbitrator, but his departure was far more costly.
New Jersey Nets
guard Jordan Farmar, who was only supposed to play a contributing role with the
team during the NBA lockout, departed the side in December as its leader in
points, rebounds, assists, steals and minutes through its first seven Euroleague
games, leaving a massive void.
Demond Mallet, signed last month, was
never going to fill Farmar’s shoes, but at that stage of the season he was the
best option Maccabi could afford.
Making matters infinitely more
difficult for Blatt was the club’s decision to play in the Adriatic League this
season, adding at least 26 games to the team’s schedule.
season, one in which Tel Aviv reached the Euroleague final, it played a total of
As of today, Maccabi has already played 51 games this term,
traveling more than 50,000 kilometers in its jaunts to places like Siroki and
Vrsac, which are in Bosnia and Serbia in case you were wondering.
management’s decision to play in an extra competition is set to pay off
financially with Tel Aviv to host the Adriatic League final four in
However, it is Blatt, who was always against joining the Adriatic
League, who is left picking up the pieces from playing three games in five days
almost every week and being stood up in the summer by his best
Nevertheless, Maccabi qualified for the Euroleague Top 16 from
second place in Group B with a 7-3 record, and has had little trouble overcoming
opponents in Israel and in the Adriatic League, winning at one stage 18
consecutive games in all competitions.
However, Blatt began to come under
fire two weeks ago, when after three tight quarters against arguably the best
team in Europe, Maccabi fell at home to Barcelona.
A meaningless BSL loss
to Maccabi Ashdod poured petrol on the flames and Blatt has seemingly become
everyone’s favorite scapegoat after the yellow-and-blue dropped to a potentially
critical 82-74 Euroleague defeat at Bennet Cantu last week.
A failure to
beat Cantu by at least nine points at Nokia Arena this Thursday could well
result in a Top 16 exit, something which has happened to Maccabi just once in
the past eight seasons.
But let there be little doubt, Maccabi needs
Blatt a whole lot more than he needs the yellow-and-blue.
sometimes be convenient to suffer from amnesia, but Blatt deserves far more
credit than he is currently being given.
Blatt is the right man to lead
Maccabi forward and even if Thursday’s game doesn’t end the way the club’s fans
are hoping for, they’d be foolish to wish for any other
coach.[email protected] Follow Allon on Twitter: @AllonSinai