Maccabi Tel Aviv’s new coach Arik Shivek (right) sits alongside captain Guy Pnini..
(photo credit: DANNY MARON)
Arik Shivek was appointed and introduced as Maccabi Tel Aviv’s new head coach on Tuesday, replacing Ainars Bagatskis ahead of the BSL playoffs.
Bagatskis only took charge last December after Rami Hadar quit following less than two months at the helm. Hadar began the season as an assistant coach to Erez Edelstein, who was fired after only two Euroleague games.
Bagatskis failed to lift the team in either Euroleague or BSL action, with the yellow-and-blue completely losing its way over recent weeks, falling in eight of its past 10 local league games.
The 80-70 defeat to Maccabi Ashdod on Monday saw Maccabi end the regular season in fourth place with a 19-14 record and the club’s ownership felt it had no option but to make another coaching change to have any chance of defeating Bnei Herzliya in the BSL best-of-five quarterfinal series which begins next Monday. The winner will advance to the Final Four.
The 61-year-old Shivek is one of Israeli basketball’s most experienced coaches, but this will be his first time guiding Maccabi. The former Israel national team coach was only handed a contract until the end of the season and is not expected to continue as head coach in 2017/18, although he may remain at the club in a different position. Shivek led Maccabi Rishon Lezion to an historic BSL title last season, but was fired in February after the team split its first 20 regular season games.
“I didn’t think I would be here when I woke up this morning,” said Shivek on Tuesday in a press conference organized by the BSL ahead of the start of the playoffs.
“I received a call from Maccabi asking for me to come and help. We had a short meeting and here I am. We need five wins to take the championship, but it is a lot more complicated than it sounds. Everyone understands this is a difficult situation, but if I didn’t believe it was possible I wouldn’t be here.”
The playoffs will get underway on Sunday when Hapoel Eilat hosts Maccabi Rishon Lezion.
Eilat seemed set to end the regular season in first place after winning 15 of 17 games, including nine in a row. But a shock loss to Maccabi Kiryat Gat was followed by Monday’s 80-78 defeat at Ironi Nahariya, allowing Hapoel Holon to leapfrog the southerners.
Eilat ended the regular season with a 21-12 record compared to Holon’s 22-11.
Game 2 will be played in Rishon the following Sunday, with Game 3 to take place in Eilat on Thursday, June 1.
Elsewhere Monday, Holon looks to carry its regular season momentum into the playoffs when it hosts Maccabi Haifa in their series opener.
Holon won four of its final five games to climb to first. Haifa only secured its playoff berth in the final day of the regular season, beating Hapoel Tel Aviv 95-79 to snap a four-game losing streak.
Holon beat Haifa in all three of their regular season meetings.
Haifa hosts Game 2 on Saturday, May 27, with Game 3 to be played in Holon on Wednesday, May 31.
By finishing the regular season in first place, Holon received the right to select the host venue for the season-ending Final Four tournament and it is set to pick Yad Eliyahu Arena in Tel Aviv over the only other option, the Jerusalem Arena.
The final series will get underway next Tuesday when Hapoel Jerusalem welcomes Ironi Nahariya.