Oded Katash the right man, in the right place, at the right time

As long as he is afforded the time he was promised, we are set to see a completely different, and hopefully, much-improved national team in a few years.

October 11, 2017 05:37
Oded Katash the right man, in the right place, at the right time

The usually ston e-faced Oded Katash had a little smile during yesterday’s press conference in which he was unveiled as the new head coach of the Israel national team.. (photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)


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At times during his playing and coaching career it seemed that Oded Katash could go entire games without smiling once.

It isn’t that he is a cold man or possesses a harsh character. Those who know him well speak of his great sense of humor and Katash enjoys a good night out to such an extent that it has been used in the past as criticism of his professionalism.

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Katash’s Sphinx game-time face is simply a testament to his unwavering focus, a characteristic that played a major part in his short yet legendary playing career and in his early success as a head coach.

Katash employed that same look at the start of Wednesday’s press conference at which he was unveiled as the new head coach of the Israel national team, being handed a four-year contract. He listened intently to the words of Israel Basketball Association chairman Amiram Halevi and the chairman of the IBA ’s professional committee Amos Frishman, while fiddling with his notebook and reading over the points he would soon talk about.

It seemed as though it would be another classic display of the cool and composed Katash.

It wouldn’t be long though before the first smile arrived, to be followed amazingly by another and another.

By the end of the 40-minute gathering it felt like Katash had smiled more than he had done throughout entire seasons, and not just because he was celebrating his 43rd birthday on Tuesday.

Katash would go on to say that he felt he had returned home, and it told in his mood and body language.

“I’m excited and I understand the importance and significance of this job,” said Katash, who is coming off two seasons at Hapoel Eilat and has one BSL championship to his name from 2010 during his time as the coach of Hapoel Gilboa/Galil. “I know the history of the national team and understand the impact I can make in this job. It was very important to me to get the job for four years because I don’t really believe that we can achieve instant results. I’m very happy to be part of this vision and to build the national team from the bottom up.”

After a dejecting EuroBasket campaign and with FIBA overhauling the qualification format of its major competitions, there is no real excuse not to rebuild the side.

Besides the fact that it lost four of five games and finished bottom of Group B of the EuroBasket which was played in Tel Aviv last month, Israel’s aging roster also gave little reason for optimism for the future.

Veterans of the likes of Lior Eliyahu, Yotam Halperin and Guy Pnini may have played for the national team for the last time, and Israel will also have to manage without Omri Casspi for most of the World Cup qualifying campaign as he will be busy playing for the Golden State Warriors in the NBA .

The likes of Shawn Dawson, Oz Blayzer and Tamir Blatt, who led the under-20 Israel side to the final of the European Championship earlier this summer, are among the players who will be expected to step up, as the blue-and-white enters a new era.

Katash knows all about the rising stars of Israeli basketball, coaching the under-20 national team in its impressive campaign in July. He will remain the coach of the side while also being in charge of the senior team, with the under-20’s not having any games until next summer.

The senior side, on the other hand, will already be back in action next month when it begins its FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 qualifying campaign.

The blue-and-white faces Greece, Great Britain and Estonia in Group H, with the top three to advance to the second round. In the past, teams qualified for the World Cup via the continental championships. In the new format, teams will play two rounds of qualifying tournaments to be held over two years in a home-and-away format.

Israel hosts Estonia in its first qualifier on November 24, three days before visiting Greece.

The first round will run until July 2018, with the second round to be played between September 2018 and February 2019. All results from the first qualification round are carried over to the second round, with the top three to secure a berth in the World Cup, which will be held in China in the summer of 2019.

Due to the new format of the World Cup, the next EuroBasket won’t be held until 2021.

“We made a statement by handing Oded a four-year contract,” said Frishman, who confirmed that Katash would be allowed to coach a club side while being in charge of the national teams. “We are building for the future. Oded isn’t a magician and we aren’t expecting to see a completely different team next month. We are starting a long-term program in which we want to see younger players become part of the team and go on to achieve success down the road.”

While previous coaches usually enjoyed a few weeks of preparations with the players before taking part in EuroBasket tournaments or qualification campaigns, FIBA ’s new format means Katash will only have a couple of days to work with the players before already having to guide them in official action.

It is a massive challenge, but one Katash believes he is up to.

“I think that there are risks in every challenge,” explained Katash. “Unfortunately, there is often a gap between the level of the expectations and the ability to realize them. I hope that we can approach our campaign with an objective outlook and understand that we have a long road ahead of us. I believe that we can achieve a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.”

Katash has every intention of revamping the Israel roster, but he tried to temper expectations regarding the impact the young players will have in the short run.

“We have a promising young generation, but it wouldn’t be smart to think that they will solve all the national team’s problems,” he noted.

Katash looks to be the right man, at the right place, at the right time.

As long as he is afforded the time he was promised, we are set to see a completely different, and hopefully, much-improved national team in a few years. And if his tenure ends up including anywhere near to as many smiles as Tuesday’s press conference, it will likely be nothing short of a resounding success.


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