Israeli basketball: Sfairopoulos out as Macabi Tel Aviv coach

Head coach Ioannis Sfairopoulos had struggled to get his squad to play a winning brand of basketball this campaign.

IOANNIS SFAIOPOULOS had plenty of highlights in four seasons as Maccabi Tel Aviv coach before the sides parted ways yesterday (photo credit: MACCABI TEL AVIV/COURTESY)
IOANNIS SFAIOPOULOS had plenty of highlights in four seasons as Maccabi Tel Aviv coach before the sides parted ways yesterday
(photo credit: MACCABI TEL AVIV/COURTESY)

Following Monday night’s Israel State Cup derby loss, Maccabi Tel Aviv and head coach Ioannis Sfairopoulos parted ways with the club after an inconsistent season to date for the yellow-and-blue that saw it lose three times to cross-town rival Hapoel Tel Aviv for the first time since 1969.

Sfairopoulos had struggled to get his squad to play a winning brand of basketball this campaign, whether it was in the domestic league – where Maccabi has a 9-6 record and currently sits in third place – or in the Euroleague, where the club is in 12th place a game under .500 with a record of 11-12.

However, after a pair of league losses to the Reds over the past couple of months plus a devastating defeat in the one-game knockout State Cup semifinal, Maccabi management finally pulled the plug after four seasons with Sfairopoulos as the bench boss.

“We tried to do our best and this is a bad loss for our club, we all know what this loss is for the club,” Sfairopoulos said following Monday’s defeat. “We want to apologize to our fans and I know how bad it is. We are suffering with them and we will try to do the best the rest of the way.”

However, Maccabi will go the rest of the way with a different face on the bench as it is expected that the club’s head of scouting, Avi Even, will take over the reins on an interim basis until a permanent head coach is found.

SCOTTIE WILBEKIN (left) and Maccabi Tel Aviv will aim to avenge a pair of recent losses to Idan Zalmanson and Hapoel Tel Aviv when the clubs duel tonight in the State Cup semifinals. (credit: WINNER LEAGUE/COURTESY)SCOTTIE WILBEKIN (left) and Maccabi Tel Aviv will aim to avenge a pair of recent losses to Idan Zalmanson and Hapoel Tel Aviv when the clubs duel tonight in the State Cup semifinals. (credit: WINNER LEAGUE/COURTESY)

The Greek head coach was appointed to take over for Neven Spahija in November 2018 and while the team did not advance to the Euroleague playoffs, it ended up winning the Israeli league title for the first of three straight under Sfairopoulos.

The 2019/20 season was a banner year for Maccabi as it was well on its way to the Euroleague playoffs until COVID-19 halted the season in its tracks and canceled the balance of the continental campaign. However, the Israeli league returned after a hiatus and with the help of Deni Avdija and Amar’e Stoudemire, Sfairopoulos took home his second local championship.

Last season, Maccabi once again had issues in Euroleague action, but Sfairopoulos was able to guide the team to yet another league title as well as his first Israel State Cup.

This past summer, the club’s management brought in a number of high-profile veteran players to try and make a run to the Euroleague postseason for the first time since the 2015 campaign under Guy Goodes. However, Sfairopoulos simply had not been able to get the best out of the squad and find the right rotations.

While management had considered replacing the coach a number of months ago, it decided to stand pat during a season that saw a number of games postponed due to the pandemic. However, following the third loss to Hapoel Tel Aviv, things reached a boiling point and the decision was made to make a sideline change.