Hapoel Jerusalem basketball players visit the Mahane Yehuda open-air market..
(photo credit: OREN BEN HAKON)
Reigning BSL champion Hapoel Jerusalem announced the signing of Greek Fotis Katsikaris as its new head coach on Wednesday, agreeing a three-year deal with the former coach of the Greece national team.
Despite leading Hapoel to the league title and the Eurocup semifinals in 2016/17, Italian Simone Pianigiani and the club both agreed it would be better to part ways.
Jerusalem wanted to bring in a foreign coach once more and it landed one of its top candidates in Katsikaris.
The 50-year-old finished last season as the coach of Murcia in Spain and has spent much of his career coaching in the Spanish top division.
He started off at AEK Athens as an assistant to Dusan Ivkovic and Dragan Sakota, taking over as head coach in 2003.
He has also coached Dynamo St. Petersburg (Russia), Aris Thessaloniki (Greece), Valencia (Spain), Bilbao (Spain) and Lokomotiv Kuban (Russia).
He replaced David Blatt as the Russia national team coach in 2012, but never guided the side in an official game during his short tenure.
Katsikaris coached the Greek national team for two years between 2014 and 2016.
Katsikaris’s achievements as a head coach include reaching the Greek league finals with AEK in 2005, the Spanish league finals with Bilbao in 2011 and the Eurocup final with Bilbao in 2013, after which he was named as the Eurocup coach of the year.
“I am very happy to join Hapoel Jerusalem. This is an organization with a very clear vision of constant improvement locally as well as in the European competitions,” said Katsikaris. “I want to thank team owner Ori Allon for the opportunity to help the growth of this club. I was here last year with “Loko” and was very impressed by the atmosphere and fans at the arena.
This time I’m on their side and I can’t wait to meet them again. I’m sure we are going to have an exciting season.
Now it’s time to get to work! Yalla Hapoel!” With a new coach signed, Hapoel can turn its focus to building next season’s roster.
Despite a drop in production, veteran Israelis Yotam Halperin and Lior Eliyahu will continue for another season.
Richard Howell will also be back for 2017/18. Howell only joined the team from Hapoel Tel Aviv in mid-April, a week after he received Israeli citizenship due to his marriage the previous summer.
Jerome Dyson and Tarence Kinsey are under contract and are likely to return, with Hapoel also interested in extending the stay of Curtis Jerrells, who is also wanted by Pianigiani at Olimpia Milano. Amar’e Stoudemire didn’t meet pre-season expectations, but he is expected to continue for another campaign. Isaac Rosefelt and Travis Peterson will leave, with negotiations with Bar Timor regarding a contract extension set to intensify.