Despite having a guaranteed contract for next season, Guy Goodes (center) may have coached his final game for Maccabi Tel Aviv.
(photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
Perhaps the most surprising part regarding Maccabi Tel Aviv’s stunning exit at the BSL semifinals was the stoicism with which it was accepted at the club.
It had been 22 years since the last time Maccabi had failed to reach the league final, but the coaching staff and management spoke as if Wednesday’s Game 5 defeat to Hapoel Eilat at Yad Eliyahu Arena was just another loss rather than one of the biggest upsets in Israeli basketball history.
“We have to stop making a tragedy from this,” said part-owner David Federman. “This happens in sport and we’ve known for a while that we’d struggle to take the championship with this roster.”
Coach Guy Goodes seemed almost indifferent, even though Wednesday’s defeat may end up costing him his job.
“This is a very disappointing and painful result,” he said. “I experienced one of the toughest seasons possible and I’m certain that it has only made me a better coach. You can’t win all the titles every season and unfortunately the injuries took their toll.”
Since the playoff format was introduced to Israeli basketball on a full time basis in the 1982/83 season and until it met Eilat, Maccabi had won 66 of 67 series’. The yellow-and-blue’s only defeat came to Hapoel Galil Elyon in the semifinals in 1992/93, snapping a run of 23 consecutive championships.
Tel Aviv had reached every final since, winning 18 of 21 league titles. All three of its defeats came over the previous seven seasons when the final was played in a onegame winner-takes-all format.
The injuries to Devin Smith and Sylven Landesberg, combined with the loss of Guy Pnini earlier in the season, left Maccabi shorthanded in the semis, but the yellow- and-blue was still a massive favorite to overcome Eilat, especially after winning the first two games of the series.
Maccabi also led by double digits in the third quarter of Game 3 at home, but allowed Eilat back into the series by dropping to an overtime defeat and capitulated on Wednesday in front of a stunned arena.
Eilat will face Hapoel Jerusalem in the two-game aggregate final next week. Game 1 will be held in Eilat on Monday, with Jerusalem to host the second leg three days later.
In the meantime, Maccabi will accelerate its preparations for next season, with the yellowand- blue planning to overhaul the roster even before Wednesday’s surprising setback.
One of the biggest question marks hanging over the club is regarding the status of Goodes.
The coach has a guaranteed contract for next season, but his once secure position is all of the sudden looking shaky.
Federman said he believes Goodes should continue, but sports director Nikola Vujcic was far less committal.
“There are not going to be decisions regarding the coaching staff for next season right after the game,” said the Croatian. “I can’t say anything for sure an hour after the game.”
Goodes’s assistant, Pini Gershon, is set to leave regardless.
Only six players seem certain to continue for another season, with Americans Smith and Brian Randle and Israelis Yogev Ohayon, Guy Pnini, Jake Cohen and Landesberg all under contract.
Sofoklis Schortsanitis, Marques Haynes, Joe Alexander and Nate Linhart will all leave, with Maccabi currently also leaning towards releasing Jeremy Pargo. Tel Aviv would like to extend Alex Tyus’s contract, but he is hoping to receive a more lucrative deal abroad.
American guard Taylor Rochestie is expected to be the club’s first new signing for next season, with Maccabi also in negotiations with Israeli Gal Mekel.
“It is a huge loss and a huge shock for all of us,” said Vujcic.
“But this is sport and we need to learn from the mistakes we made this year. I know that we will all get stronger from this.”