Sinai Says: Federman sheds light on yellow-and-blue’s festering dysfunction

With one coach already being sacked and players coming and going throughout the season, Maccabi’s management has all but given up this year.

Maccabi Tel Aviv HOOPS co-owner David Federman (photo credit: UDI ZITIAT)
Maccabi Tel Aviv HOOPS co-owner David Federman
(photo credit: UDI ZITIAT)
Things must be pretty bad when the owner of a team spends an entire hour explaining to the media how everything has gone wrong.
In fact, according to Maccabi Tel Aviv Basketball Club co-owner David Federman, matters may have never been worse at Israel’s marquee club.
Federman called an impromptu press conference, or as he preferred to call it “a dialog with the media,” on Monday in an attempt to share the way he sees this season’s experience, or as some believe, to put a positive spin on a mammoth failure.
After all, until this season Maccabi had never previously been knocked out prior to the Euroleague Top 16, and should it fail to beat Nizhny Novgorod at Yad Eliyahu Arena on Wednesday night, it will also be sent packing from the Eurocup.
Maccabi’s struggles haven’t been limited to continental play, with the yellow-and-blue falling to a 13-6 record in the BSL with a defeat of historic proportions on Saturday night. The 91-56 loss at Maccabi Haifa was the yellowand- blue’s heaviest local defeat in history, marking a new low in a season which keeps deteriorating.
Maccabi also registered its lowest point total in a game since March 1966, when it then claimed a 52-43 win over Hapoel Gvat.
With one coach already being sacked and players coming and going throughout the campaign, Maccabi’s management has all but given up on this season, hoping that somehow all the changes turn out for the best while fearing the worst.
The recent additions of Gal Mekel, Elijah Millsap and Cedric Simmons have yet to bring about the change Maccabi was hoping for, with the latter set to be released when his two-week contract ends after struggling to prove his fitness.
Despite the embarrassing loss, Maccabi doesn’t plan on making any significant changes to its coaching staff or roster until the end of the season, mainly as it has already tried almost everything possible.
Everything but an hour-long press conference.
Federman covered every subject imaginable, from roster changes to ticket prices.
But more than anything else, he revealed the dysfunctional fashion in which Maccabi is being run and the drastic measures required in order to take the club back to its former glory.
The story behind the signing of Jordan Farmar last summer is just one of many examples that show the unprofessional manner in which decisions are being made at what is widely considered as the standard bearer in professional sports in Israel.
Farmar left the club exactly one month ago after a miserable half-a-year at Maccabi. Speculation regarding Farmar’s future at Maccabi had been raging for weeks after he failed to settle at the club.
The highest paid player on the roster, earning in the region of $1.25 million this season, Farmar averaged 8.9 points and 2.8 assists in 20 minutes per game in Maccabi’s failed Euroleague campaign, and saw his role further marginalized following the signing of coach Zan Tabak in place of Guy Goodes.
“We had signed Taylor Rochestie and had Yogev Ohayon under contract, but my son Danny [who was the team’s general manager until choosing to take a step back in recent months] called me and told me that Jordan Farmar wants to come,” explained Federman.
“The team’s professional staff said that it would be problematic to play Farmar and Rochestie together, but we as owners decided that this would be a very attractive backcourt and decided to take the risk. We took the risk and we were wrong.”
Another prime example of the way Maccabi currently works is the signing and ultimate release of Arinze Onuaku.
“I told the professional staff to bring the best big man they can find regardless of his cost in October, but then we discovered that you can’t necessarily find players so late in the year and we decided to bring in players on a shortterm basis,” said Federman, who has been involved at Maccabi for decades.
“That was a mistake, but we signed three players using that logic. I learned that you are better off remaining stuck than giving the Maccabi shirt to players who don’t deserve it.”
Despite still being listed as Team Manager on the club’s website, Federman admitted for the first time on Monday that Nikola Vujcic is the man in charge of all professional decisions.
“We have CEO Eli Drikes, who is in charge of everything happening in the company, and Nikola, who is in charge of the professional side,” Federman explained, with Vujcic set to continue calling the shots next season despite this term’s humbling results.
Federman also complemented Tabak’s work with the team since replacing Goodes in November, but he wouldn’t confirm that the club was interested in the Croatian’s services beyond this season.
“What happened in Haifa was a disgrace, but we must remember that we were missing three of our five starters,” noted Federman.
“Are we a good enough team? Not at all. We are not at the level we need to be at.”
Federman said Maccabi will lose over $5 million this season, but said the club will increase its players’ budget for 2016/17 due to the change in the Euroleague’s format.
Maccabi’s Euroleague future is secure for at least another decade, with its income from the competition set to mushroom after a new Euroleague competition model was agreed upon last November.
The yellow-and-blue will be one of 16 teams which will compete in a round-robin regular season of 30 rounds, to be followed by bestof- five playoffs, with series winners advancing to the Final Four, at which the continental champion will be crowned.
That means Maccabi is guaranteed at the very least 30 Euroleague games.
“Next season Maccabi will have 12 players and each and every one of them will be capable of playing against the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona and CSKA Moscow,” said Federman.
“There is no doubt that this has been a difficult and unsuccessful season. It may be the worst season in Maccabi history. We are aware of the fact that we have made some bad mistakes.
We tried to fix what we could, but now we are already looking ahead to next season.
“We are not indifferent to what has happened.
We can’t sleep at night. We will do everything to return to the place we should be at. Everyone knows who Maccabi Tel Aviv is.”
Federman was obviously talking about the club’s domination of local hoops for the past five decades and its six European titles. However, in the current state of affairs one could think he was alluding to the alarming manner in which the club is managed.
That eternal dysfunction is the core of Maccabi’s failure this season and until that changes, any success the club records will be nothing more than incidental and fleeting.