Trial by fire for new Holon coach Goodes

Less than 2 weeks into tenure, Israel bench boss faces Champions League rubber-match vs Besikstas.

 Hapoel Holon coach Guy Goodes (photo credit: ISRAEL BASKETBALL ASSOCIATION)
Hapoel Holon coach Guy Goodes

There is no question that the marriage between Guy Goodes and Hapoel Holon was the last thing on anyone’s minds just a couple of months ago. But as they say, always expect the unexpected and that’s exactly what occurred roughly 10 days ago.

The Israel National Team coach has had quite the last few months of action both on and off the court, which has altered the landscape of Israeli basketball in more ways than one.

From beginning the season as Maccabi Rishon Lezion’s bench boss and the blue-and-white job the far from becoming reality, Goodes now finds himself on the sidelines of one of Israel’s top basketball franchises while also looking ahead to World Cup qualifiers and Eurobasket 2022.

However, perhaps the one of the most challenging moments of his career as a head coach has occurred over the past few days where he was thrust into a situation that called upon him to win three straight knockout games.

The biggest of the trio of these contests takes place Wednesday night against Besiktas in the Basketball Champions League Play In best-of-three series, which is currently deadlocked at one game apiece with the winner moving on to the Round of 16 group stage.

TYRUS MCGEE (right) scored a game-high 27 points to lead Hapoel Holon to an 89-85 victory over Tarik Phillip (left) and Hapoel Jerusalem in Saturday night's Winner Cup semifinal tilt.  (credit: BERNEY ARDOV)
TYRUS MCGEE (right) scored a game-high 27 points to lead Hapoel Holon to an 89-85 victory over Tarik Phillip (left) and Hapoel Jerusalem in Saturday night's Winner Cup semifinal tilt. (credit: BERNEY ARDOV)

For Goodes, this is trial by fire in the truest sense of the words.

How did Goodes and Holon get into this unlikely union? Let’s take a look at the journey that put these two parties under Huppah or the Israeli basketball wedding canopy.

Over the summer, Goodes re-signed with Rishon Lezion for two years after having a number of successful campaigns taking the wine city side to the Israeli League finals as well as the State Cup. So, it was only natural that the former star guard, who actually began his coaching career with Rishon in 2004, would continue with the club.

At Holon, Stefanos Dedas, the head coach over the past couple of seasons, asked out of his contract in order to begin the bench boss at AEK in his home country of Greece. From there, chairman Eitan Lanciano set forth in finding another foreign coach that could continue to build the purples into a consistent power both on the domestic and European front and settled on Italian maestro Maurizio Buscaglia, who had success in the EuroCup with Trento.

However, Buscaglia had not been truly tested on a continental level with a club despite guiding the Holland National Team since 2019. While he struggled to find consistency in Holon’s play, Goodes had the same issue over at Rishon while also having been named to take over from Oded Katash at the Israel National Team when his contract was not extended.

With Rishon floundering in the standings and mired in last place, the sides parted ways just last month, leaving Goodes without a club team.

Buscaglia’s tense situation boiled over with inconsistent results including a brutal loss at Hapoel Eilat and then an inexcusable defeat to an undermanned Besiktas at home in the first game of Holon’s Champions League Play In series.

Lanciano had seen enough and the bench boss was let go with not only Holon’s continental dreams heading the wrong way, but with also a State Cup one-game knockout on tap against Hapoel Haifa.

No doubt that this was a very precarious situation – one that the club had been in for some time – and one that could determine the squad’s outlook for the balance of the season.

Enter Goodes stage right, with the 50-year-old joining the team after a very short negotiation period, bringing the two parties together for what would begin with three straight win-or-go-home games.

To say that Goodes hit the ground running with the adrenaline pumping would be quite the understatement.

Before Goodes was even able to put on his coach’s training uniform, he was jetting with his new team to Istanbul for Game 2 against Besiktas, which could not have gotten off to a worse start as Holon fell into a deep 26-13 hole after the first quarter of play.

However, veteran leader Chris Johnson helped the club chip away at the lead and Israeli stalwart Guy Pnini drilled home a clutch three-pointer to send the series to Wednesday’s decisive Game 3 back in Israel.

One mission down, two to go.

Next up was a fierce State Cup battle at home against a well-rested and focused Hapoel Haifa and once again, Holon spotted the visitors a 41-27 lead at halftime. But just as they had done a few days prior, Joe Ragland, an injured Adam Smith and Johnson found a way to send the game to overtime, where Frederic Bourdillon hit a number of big shots to finally clinch the hard-earned win in a second extra session in a game that went 50 minutes.

Two down and one to go.

Now with the rubber match against Besiktas in front of a packed arena slated for Wednesday evening, Goodes will have a chance to go down in club lore should he accomplish what seemed to be totally out of reach – taking a fragile team on the cusp of imploding and winning three straight knockout games.

With Holon’s goal clearly in sight, will Goodes be able to accomplish this mission impossible?