New coach arrives at TA following defeat

Bagatskis takes charge after Darussafaka hands yellow-and-blue record fifth straight Euroleague loss.

December 25, 2016 04:47
2 minute read.
Latvian Ainars Bagatskis begins life as the head coach of Maccabi Tel Aviv today, inheriting a team

Latvian Ainars Bagatskis begins life as the head coach of Maccabi Tel Aviv today, inheriting a team with a 5-9 record in the Euroleague following Friday’s defeat to Darussafaka in Istanbul.. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Latvian Ainars Bagatskis begins life as the head coach of Maccabi Tel Aviv on Sunday, inheriting a team in the midst of its worst ever Euroleague run.

Maccabi dropped to its fifth consecutive defeat in continental action on Friday, squandering a 17-point lead on the way to an 86-84 loss to David Blatt’s Darussafaka.

Maccabi pulled ahead in the first quarter and held what seemed like a comfortable 48-31 gap at the break. But just like two days previously when it lost to CSKA Moscow after leading by as many as 18 points, the yellow-andblue capitulated under the pressure and dropped to a defeat against a far more composed and well coached opponent.

Scottie Wilbekin had 23 points for Darussafaka, which improved to 8-6, with Will Clyburn adding 20 points.

Andrew Goudelock scored 23 points for Maccabi, which visits Maccabi Rishon Lezion in BSL action on Monday in Bagatskis’ first game at the helm.

Maccabi was guided on Friday for the last time by interim coach Lior Lubin, who filled the void left following Rami Hadar’s resignation.

Tel Aviv agreed to terms with Bagatskis at the start of last week, but his appointment only became official on Saturday following the game against Darussafaka, with the Latvian leaving his post as Blatt’s assistant.

Bagatskis will try and succeed where both Erez Edelstein and Hadar have failed so far this season and get a group of talented players to perform at least as good as the sum of their parts.

“I saw the game on Friday up close and am happy I already met the team in Istanbul,” said Bagatskis, who was handed a contract until the end of the season, with a club option for 2017/18.

“I’m honored to receive this job and to coach a great club like Maccabi Tel Aviv. I’m excited to start.”

Blatt, who was facing Maccabi in a competitive game for the first time since leaving in the summer of 2014, gave Bagastkis his blessing. “I wish Ainars and Maccabi the same kind of mutual and successful experience that I enjoyed throughout my years in Maccabi,” said Blatt.

“He is coming to a special club and I believe he can add his touch to a very talented team. I wish him all the best.”

The 49-year-old Bagatskis has a 12-37 record as a head coach in the Euroleague from his time at Lithuania’s Zalgiris Kaunas, Ukrainian team Budivelnyk Kiev and Nizhny Novgorod of Russia. He has spent almost his entire coaching career in Eastern Europe, also guiding the Latvia national team since 2010. Last season, he led Nizhny to the quarterfinals of the Eurocup, beating Hapoel Jerusalem and Maccabi Tel Aviv along the way.

Bagatskis’ first Euroleague game in charge of the yellow-and-blue will be against Baskonia Vitoria on Thursday, which will also mark the halfway point of the regular season. Maccabi had never previously lost five Euroleague games in a row until Friday, falling four games below .500 (5-9) with the defeat in Turkey.

Maccabi slid to 14th place out of 16 teams in the standings, but is still only two games back of eighth position, which will lead to the playoffs at the end of the regular season.

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