Monday night’s hoops humiliation at the hands of Hapoel Tel Aviv was a potential season- changer for Maccabi Tel Aviv.
The yellow-and-blue will eventually overcome the embarrassment of its first home defeat to its arch-rival in 22 years.
After all, in the big picture, one loss in a 33-game regular season followed by playoffs is relatively meaningless. However, the manner of the defeat and its repercussions will leave a scar that will likely haunt Maccabi until at least the end of the season.
It wasn’t just that Maccabi lost; much worse, the yellow-and-blue looked completely helpless against a far less-talented Hapoel roster. The pathetic display can’t simply be chalked up to one bad game either.
Maccabi has experienced eight days from hell, starting with last Sunday’s drubbing at the hands of Hapoel Jerusalem, when Tel Aviv suffered its heaviest- ever loss in local action with the 93-63 defeat at the Jerusalem Arena.
The alarm bells began to ring then, but unlike in the past, no one at the club was panicking. After all, Maccabi had lost at home to Jerusalem by 28 points last season and a little more than two months later found itself lifting the Euroleague title. But this is different.
There is no David Blatt to steer the struggling ship to safety. The ever-reliable shooter David Blu is enjoying his new life as a businessman, while former star guards Tyrese Rice and Ricky Hickman are reaping the financial rewards of last season’s triumph elsewhere.
Despite a far from impressive start to the season, Maccabi seemed to be on track until last Sunday.
It may have lost to Jerusalem in the final of the pre-season Winner Cup, while also dropping to a shock aggregate defeat to Flamengo in the FIBA Intercontinental Cup. Nevertheless, it opened the BSL season with four comfortable victories, and despite falling by 19 points at CSKA Moscow, moved to 2-1 in the Euroleague with an easy road win over Alba Berlin.
But it has all come crashing down since last Sunday.
The loss in Jerusalem was followed by a stunning 83-73 Euroleague setback against previously winless Cedevita Zagreb, who is the only team in the competition without a single American on its roster.
The pressure truly began to set in after Thursday’s defeat, but Maccabi still entered Monday’s derby showdown with Hapoel as a firm favorite. It became quickly apparent, however, that the yellow- and-blue would not be able to rise to the occasion at Nokia Arena.
Hapoel dominated from the start, as Maccabi could only manage a club record-low of 18 points in the first half.
Matters didn’t improve after the break, with Maccabi fans deserting the arena long before Hapoel wrapped up a 78-58 win for one of its biggest-ever victories over its cross-town nemesis.
As if the defeat wasn’t bad enough, Maccabi also lost captain Guy Pnini for the season. The forward underwent surgery to repair a tear in his Achilles tendon on Tuesday and is not expected to be fit until 2015/16.
Complicating matters even further was the fact that a mere five hours after the final buzzer on Monday, Maccabi already had to make its way to the airport for its flight to Spain ahead of Thursday’s Euroleague encounter against Unicaja Malaga.
A visit to the 3-1 Malaga would have been considered difficult at the best of times, not to mention in Maccabi’s current situation.
Shouldering all this pressure is coach Guy Goodes. The 44-year-old longtime assistant, who was finally given his chance following Blatt’s departure, has extremely broad shoulders, literally.
However, they seemed to slump for the first time on Monday, with the crippling pressure at Maccabi ultimately getting to him.
With the game already decided, Goodes was ejected just under four minutes to the end of the fourth quarter after a heated exchange of words with the officiating staff.
Goodes kicked aside chairman Shimon Mizrahi’s chair in disgust as he made his way down to the dressing room, and received some chilling stares from Mizrahi and the rest of the team’s ownership at the arena.
“I just lost my cool,” said Goodes, who struggled to explain his side’s listless performance.
“I would explain it if I could. I don’t think we will ever break the record of scoring just 18 points in a single half.
We were frozen and couldn’t drag ourselves out of this whirlwind. But as I told the players in the dressing room, I’m not one who gives up easily and I don’t expect them to do so either.”
Goodes admitted that drastic changes may be required, but he didn’t seem to be indicating that those changes would extend to the coaching position.
With Pnini out indefinitely, Maccabi will have to make some additions to the roster, but the club may well decide to undertake a complete overhaul.
Aleks Maric will leave once his contract ends in December, but the likes of Marquez Haynes and Nate Linhart are also on the chopping block.
Maccabi’s management is also disappointed in the play of Alex Tyus, who has been disgruntled since the summer after not receiving the contract-extension offer he had hoped for, and Sofoklis Schortsanitis, who returned overweight and requiring surgery to treat glaucoma.
Tyus and Schortsanitis have no need to worry about their place on the roster, though, as Maccabi simply doesn’t have the means to replace them.
Goodes shouldn’t be too concerned about losing his job just yet, either, but that could quickly change. He never had a long leash to start with and, if nothing else, the clock has certainly begun ticking.
The lack of an adequate alternative means that, for now, Goodes has time to turn the situation around, but it remains to be seen if he is capable of doing so.
His teaming-up with assistant Pini Gershon is certainly looking worse with every day that passes and that may well have resulted in the lack of respect he seems to be getting from his dressing room.
Bringing in an illustrious assistant who had previously led Maccabi to three European titles was always a risky move and it undermined Goodes’s authority before the season even began.
The stakes couldn’t be higher for Goodes, who is desperate to prove that he deserves to be the Maccabi coach.
However, the situation could hardly be worse, leaving Goodes with the unenviable and perhaps impossible task of saving Maccabi’s firstname.lastname@example.org