LOCAL BASKETBALL: Edelstein ready for Mac TA pressure-cooker

New yellow-and-blue head coach admits he was surprised at being handed position after decades as opposition.

By
June 15, 2016 01:33
3 minute read.
Maccabi Tel-Aviv

Idan Paz (right) and forward Itay Segev (left) are expected to remain at Maccabi Tel Aviv for another season to continue their development, but Ike Ofoegbu (second left) and Dagan Yivzori (second right) will be among those who will pay the price for the dejecting 2015/16 campaign. (photo credit: ERAN LUF)

New Maccabi Tel Aviv coach Erez Edelstein admitted he never thought he would be handed an opportunity to guide the yellow-and-blue, when he was introduced on Tuesday afternoon.

Edelstein, who was named as the new head coach last Thursday – accepting the position he turned down last November – joins the club after arguably its worst ever season.

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He was already offered to take charge following Guy Goodes’s sacking seven months ago, but turned down the opportunity as he didn’t want to take charge mid-season, and had little faith in the team’s roster at the time. He clearly made the right decision in hindsight, after Croatian Zan Tabak – who ultimately replaced Goodes – was told last Wednesday that his contract will not be extended. His firing came after Maccabi was knocked out in the BSL semifinals for a second straight season, losing to Maccabi Rishon Lezion in the Final Four.

For the first time in 50 years, Maccabi has gone consecutive seasons without a league title. It was also sent packing from the Euroleague in the regular season earlier in the campaign, and fell at the first hurdle in the Eurocup.

“I’m happy and excited to be here,” said Edelstein. “I never believed this would happen. This is a unique organization and I’ve come to understand that since signing.”

The 54-year-old Edelstein began his head coaching career at Hapoel Gvat in 1992/93, and went on to serve as an assistant coach to former Maccabi coach Pini Gershon at Hapoel Jerusalem.

He guided Bnei Herzliya, Hapoel Galil Elyon, Maccabi Ramat Gan, Hapoel Jerusalem and Hapoel Tel Aviv, while also working as Gershon’s assistant at Greek powerhouse Olympiacos in 2007/08.

Edelstein returned to Hapoel Tel Aviv in 2011, guiding it until 2014 when he was named as Israel coach.

Edelstein will have little influence on Maccabi’s roster for next season, with the squad all but complete.

American forward Quincy Miller and German center Maik Zirbes, who both played for Red Star Belgrade last season, as well as Sonny Weems, who was released by the Philadelphia 76ers in March, have already all signed with the club.

They will join Gal Mekel, Yogev Ohayon, Sylven Landesberg, Guy Pnini and Itay Segev, who look certain to continue for another campaign.

Devin Smith is also likely to be back, with the future of Trevor Mbakwe, Richard Hendrix and Dagan Yivzori hanging in the balance.

Edelstein’s assistants were also announced on Tuesday, with former Maccabi Haifa coach Rami Hadar and Lior Lubin, who works under Edelstein on the Israel national team, signing one-year deals.

“I think I’m arriving at this role more mature, more experienced and more hungry than I’ve ever been,” added Edelstein, who during his time at Hapoel Tel Aviv said he would never coach Maccabi. “I want to coach in the Euroleague. I think that is something that is missing in my career. Every coach wants to guide Maccabi. Every coach wants to coach in the Euroleague and so do I. I told the owners that I only want a contract for one year because I’m certain we’ll accomplish our goals.”

Also Tuesday, Hapoel Tel Aviv announced the appointment of Effi Birenboim as GM. Head coach Sharon Avrahami will continue in his role for another season. The 62-year-old Birenboim last coached at Bnei Herzliya, resigning in March 2014, and will be working as a GM for the first time.

“I’m happy to be joining a big club like Hapoel Tel Aviv,” said Birenboim.

“I’m coming to the club in order to contribute from my knowledge and experience.”


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