What an incredible weekend for all Israeli sports fans.
Before I talk about this weekend, I must talk about what Maccabi have gone through this season. A couple of months into the season, every media outlet in Israel reported that David Blatt could be fired at any moment. Then out of nowhere the club announced that the captain and heart and soul of the team Shawn James would miss the rest of the season due to a serious back injury.
The club got off to a horrible start in domestic competition and was getting blown out by teams with a fraction of the budget Maccabi have. The pressure was mounting and it seemed like David Blatt was on his way out.
Maccabi management decided to stick with Blatt to see what he could do with the rest of the season.
Now, let’s flash-forward to Sunday’s Euroleague Final. The final whistle blew and Maccabi were the European champions. Confetti showered the crowd, thousands of Israelis sang and Maccabi Tel Aviv fans declared that Europe is yellow.
So how did David Blatt go from nearly being fired to being crowned king by every single Maccabi fan?
Well, the answer is very simple: he made adjustments. The right adjustments.
David Blatt started to give Alex Tyus more minutes and Tyus rewarded Blatt by having an unbelievable second half of the season. Tyus was even given the prestigious award of Euroleague Player of the Month in April.
Next adjustment? Blatt gave Tyrese Rice the confidence and instruction that he was the commander and general on the court. Tyrese Rice elevated his game and started to show why he was brought to Maccabi in the first place. During this weekend’s Final Four, Rice was named Final Four MVP after completely taking over the game down the stretch and hitting crucial shots and free-throws.
What do David Blatt, Alex Tyus and Tyrese Rice all have in common?
All three of them were minutes away from being thrown out the door by Maccabi. Coach Blatt took these two basketball players and coached the hell out of them and made Maccabi management regret that they almost let these two players go.
In addition to Maccabi’s three unsung heroes, David Blu continued to show why he is one of the most dangerous shooters in the world. Sofo came in and gave everything he could offer and Maccabi got important buckets from Devin Smith and Ricky Hickman when it mattered.
David Blatt took a group no one believed in and convinced them to battle as a team, play smart basketball, and most importantly never ever give up. This goes beyond X’s and O’s, this type of coaching is hard to find.
In twenty years from now when people ask me about this championship and ask me what I remember, I suspect I will smile and say: David Blatt.