Guy Goodes was named as the head coach of Maccabi Tel Aviv on June 19, 2014. He was sacked 17 months later, but at no stage was he the man in charge of calling the shots at Maccabi.
Goodes was handed the position almost by default, being the natural successor to David Blatt after serving as his assistant for four years before the latter departed for the NBA.
However, Goodes never had the trust of the Maccabi ownership. There were those in the fractured ownership who seemed to regret his appointment from day one and they treated him accordingly.
Considering his record, Goodes will be remembered as one of the biggest coaching failures at the yellow-and-blue.
A measly State Cup is all he has to his name from his first season in charge, with Maccabi missing out on the league final for the first time in 22 years after also being swept in the Euroleague quarterfinals.
Maccabi began this season’s Euroleague campaign at 1-3 for the first time in 17 years and the humbling defeat to Maccabi Ashdod in what was Goodes’s final game in charge was the team’s third loss in five home games over all competitions.
However, as dismal as his record might be, Goodes should only shoulder part of the responsibility for what has unfolded since last summer.
He may have been the one making the calls on the sidelines, but so much else was not in his hands.
Not only did he not have a real say in the identity of many of the players signed, but he wasn’t even afforded the right to select his assistants the way virtually all his predecessors were.
Within two months of his appointment and before he even guided the team in a single game, it was clear how little confidence the club had in Goodes.
For all the talk about Goodes being “the chosen one,” Maccabi’s coach of the future, the club stabbed him in the back by bringing in Pini Gershon to work as his assistant, a move he initially objected to before ultimately capitulating.
Maccabi’s management insisted Goodes had the final say on the matter and he certainly shoulders much of the responsibility for a decision he will surely regret for the rest of his career.
Not only did Goodes face the unenviable task of stepping into Blatt’s massive shoes, but he had to do so under the enormous shadow of Gershon.
Gershon was adamant that under no circumstance would he take over from Goodes should the team struggle and the latter be sacked. He lived up to his word as it was he who was sent packing from the club following last season’s disappointment.
In order to pacify Goodes regarding Gershon’s arrival, Maccabi agreed to guarantee the second year of his contract, which had been a team option.
Gershon’s hiring was concocted in the first place due to a lack of faith in Goodes, but the ownership only further complicated the situation by making financial guarantees it would of course later live to regret.
Goodes may well have been sent home with Gershon had the second year of his contract not been guaranteed, but even after choosing to stay the course with a man who has been nothing but a loyal servant to the club, management spat in his face yet again this past summer.
Goodes was notified that besides Gershon, the club has also decided to sack his trusted assistant Alon Stein as well as fitness coach Avi Kowalski, who had been at the club for nearly 30 years.
Goodes was told that Avi Even, the scout responsible for many of the team’s signings over recent seasons, and Rafi Bogatin, who had coached the club’s youth side, would be his new assistants and he reluctantly swallowed the insult.
Goodes has always been about what is best for the club and he would never allow his pride to get in the way. Management had decided that this would give the team the best chance to succeed so Goodes conceded.
Goodes’s lack of ego is certainly commendable, but Maccabi fans can only regret the fact he didn’t stand his ground considering the team’s results.
Maccabi is targeting a foreign coach to replace Goodes, but the fact the likes of Israel national team coach Erez Edelstein and former Maccabi guard Sarunas Jasikevicius of Lithuania have both already turned down an offer from the club shows that the appeal of what was once considered to be one of the most prestigious coaching positions in European basketball is not what it used to be.
Much of that can be put down to the fluctuating situation in the club’s ownership. Majority owners David Federman and Oudi Recanati made a decision to take a step back several years ago and allow their sons, Danny Federman and Shay Recanati, to lead the way. However, since last season’s debacle, the old guard is pulling the strings once more, resulting in further upheaval.
Goodes did his best to navigate the obstacle course, but ultimately so much was out of his hands, not that he proved very capable of handling what was under his control.
At the very least, Maccabi should make sure it truly believes in the next coach it appoints and actually affords him a real opportunity to succeed rather than hampering his chances.
The only thing that saved Maccabi’s ownership from itself in previous years was the authority commanded by its head coaches, in particular Gershon (1998-2001, 2003-2006, 2008-2010) and Blatt (2001-2003, 2010-2014), who had been at the helm in 14 of 16 seasons prior to Goodes’s hiring.
While they will never admit it, one of the reasons behind Goodes’s promotion was the fact the ownership knew that would allow it far more influence on professional matters.
The appointment of Nikola Vujcic as team manager in place of Blatt’s good friend Gur Shelef in June 2013 was a first step in that direction and the 2014 Euroleague triumph only acted as validation for the ownership.
However, the unlikely success was all about Blatt’s skills as a coach, with the management’s role marginal at the very best.
There are many lessons to be gleaned from what happened with Goodes.
But the true men in charge at Maccabi have shown little willingness to learn in the past and they are destined to repeat their mistakes until they finally do so.