Allon sinai 88.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The incredible combination of results in EuroBasket 2009 qualification on Saturday night not only ensured Israel's place in the European Championships, but just as remarkably meant that four Israeli coaches will be on the sidelines in Poland next summer.
Unbelievably, Tzvika Sherf (Israel), David Blatt (Russia), Muli Katzurin (Poland) and Pini Gershon (Bulgaria) will all be guiding teams in the tournament, meaning a quarter of the coaches in next year's championships speak fluent Hebrew.
"It's a great honor for Israeli basketball and shows the high level of the Israeli coaches," Sherf told the Post on Tuesday. "The Israelis are very good coaches and they live for basketball. They work very hard and have a lot of knowledge."
Ironically, the last Israeli coach to book his place in Poland was national team coach Sherf.
The thrashing of the Czech Republic combined with other favorable results gave Israel a berth in the final seconds of the qualifying campaign and finally silenced Sherf's critics.
Following in the footsteps of Ralph Klein, who led the West German national team and German club BSC Saturn Koln in the mid-80s, Sherf successfully coached both Thessaloniki teams in Greece in the 90s and was one of the main reasons behind the growing reputation of Israeli coaches in Europe.
"The Israeli coach has a good image in Europe. The fact is that Russia, Poland and Bulgaria have all taken Israeli coaches," Sherf said.
"In the last decade European basketball has opened-up to foreign coaches. For Russia to sign a coach from abroad would have been unacceptable in the past.
"To be a national team coach is also very stressful and the people hiring the coaches tend to believe that a foreign coach will find it easier to deal with all the different difficulties."
There is, however, also a depressing side to the success of the Israeli coaches. Many of Israel's best have gone and are going abroad almost against their wishes. The lack of competitiveness in the BSL combined with the ever shrinking status and salaries of the coaches has pretty much forced them to search for challenges away from home.
"As soon as the coach has little options to progress in Israel he rightly leaves for abroad where he has many options," said Sherf, who is pessimistic about the future of coaches in Israel.
"There's no solution to the diminishing status of the Israeli coach in the country and there won't be any solution. All the bodies which determine the coach's status won't allow a change. Not the club owners, not the journalists and not the fans. No one wants the coaches to be strong, even though basketball as a whole is losing out. This is just part of Israel's sporting culture."
Despite Sherf's disheartening comments, it's important not to forget the full half of the glass.
Israeli coaches currently receive unprecedented levels of respect across Europe and the participation of Sherf, Blatt, Katzurin and Gershon in next summer's tournament is an historic achievement which will be one of Israeli basketball's proudest moments.
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