Maccabi Tel Aviv's Devin Smith 370.
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Maccabi Tel Aviv will enter Tuesday’s BSL Final Four semifinal against Hapoel
Holon without any unneeded distractions after coach David Blatt ended the
swirling rumors regarding his future by signing a two-year contract extension on
Maccabi initially announced in February that it had agreed to
extend the 53-year-old’s stay, but the two parties only finally put pen to paper
on Monday following some tense weeks.
Last month, Blatt came under
unexpected fire from part-owner David Federman for his handling of guard Theo
Papaloukas and there was speculation that the coach was unhappy and might be
headed to Euroleague finalist CSKA Moscow, which had reportedly offered almost 2
million euro a year.
However, Blatt put an end to the rumors on Monday,
and not a moment too soon, with Maccabi looking to advance to Thursday’s BSL
title game with a win over Holon at Nokia Arena on Tuesday.
“No one is
happier than me to continue this collaboration with Maccabi,” said Blatt, who
has also got an option for the 2014/15 season.
“This is where I wanted
and dreamed to be. I feel twice as good as I did when I first signed for
“I returned to Maccabi two years ago a better coach and a better
person, ready for the massive challenges Maccabi presents.
“The last two
years have been wonderful and now there is continuity, which is one of the most
important parameters for success.”
Blatt led Maccabi to the Euroleague
final last season, also guiding it to the BSL championship and State Cup with
just a single loss all year to an Israeli opponent.
Only a heartbreaking
Game 5 defeat to Panathinaikos denied Tel Aviv a place in the Euroleague Final
Four this season, but the team has claimed the State Cup and Adriatic League
title and enters the BSL Final Four a huge favorite to defend its Israeli
Maccabi, which swept BC Habika’a in the quarterfinals, beat
Holon in all three of their regular season meetings this season, although never
by more than 10 points.
However, Tel Aviv dominated Holon, which overcame
Hapoel Jerusalem 3-1 in the quarters, in their most recent showdown, leading
63-38 after three periods last month before taking its foot off the
Nevertheless, forward Guy Pnini is adamant that Maccabi will not be
taking anything for granted on Tuesday.
“We are not focusing on the past
but on the future,” Pnini said. “This is a one game winner- takes-all scenario
and we saw in the Champions League final that sometimes the best team doesn’t
In the first semi on Tuesday, Maccabi Rishon Lezion faces surprise
package Maccabi Ashdod.
Rishon became the first Israeli team to comeback
from a 2-0 deficit in the playoffs when it defeated Ironi Ashkelon in Game 5
last week, but will only be a slight favorite against Ashdod at
Ashdod impressed in a 3-1 win over No. 2 seed Hapoel Gilboa/Galil
in the quarters and beat Rishon when the teams last met in March.
achieved something great simply by reaching the Final Four,” said Ashdod guard
“We are going to face a team very similar to ourselves and
I’m expecting a great game.”