Hapoel Jerusalem lets the good times roll

With State Cup title in the bag, cohesive Reds set sights on more hardware this season.

HAPOEL JERUSALEM celebrates on the court with the trophy following its victory over Maccabi Rishon Lezion in last week’s State Cup final in the capital (photo credit: DANNY MARON)
HAPOEL JERUSALEM celebrates on the court with the trophy following its victory over Maccabi Rishon Lezion in last week’s State Cup final in the capital
(photo credit: DANNY MARON)
“We Are Family.” Sister Sledge’s 1979 hit that became the theme song for the World Champion Pittsburgh Pirates couldn’t have been a better description for a team that was made up of Willie “Pops” Stargell, Tony Parker, Bill Madlock, Omar Moreno and many others.
The song can also be used for this season’s Hapoel Jerusalem Basketball Club; it is truly a family. All for one and one for all.
This past week saw the Reds dominate both its State Cup semifinal tilt against Hapoel Holon and the final versus Maccabi Rishon Lezion to capture their first cup in 11 years and their fifth overall. Jerusalem confidently controlled both games and also showed a certain maturity for a team that has been together for only half a year.
One of the most important characteristics when building what is primarily a new team was to find players with certain qualities – qualities that didn’t necessarily mean strictly talent on the court, but chemistry and personality off of it as well.
Here are the various components of what has become an increasingly intriguing, cohesive and likeable team:
The GM
The job of putting together the puzzle was charged to the general manager Guy Harel. He was able to put together a group of players of the highest standards and who would look out for each other. They have given 100% on the court for the best of the team and have checked their egos at the door.
The Players
In the final, Jerusalem brought off of the bench arguably its two best players in James Feldeine and J’Covan Brown. In fact, the Jerusalem bench scored 49 of the team’s 82 points. Add to the mix Tashawn Thomas, Da’Sean Butler, Tamir Blatt, Bar Timor, Lior Eliyahu and Amar’e Stoudemire and there’s not a bad bone in the locker room. Feldeine just re-signed with Jerusalem for two more years, only a few months after his arrival; that speaks volumes.
The Coach
Maestro Oded Katash has been able to get the players to buy into his plan. A plan that is multi-pronged and unveiled following the State Cup win. The vup was just the first title on a list that includes the Champions League and the Israel League championship. Celebrations were surprisingly muted and each player kept talking about the goals that still lay ahead.
The Staff
It’s not just the players and coaching staff who are key to the family concept. It’s the office staff, management and everyone else in between. There are many times during the season where you’ll see the team’s employees at away games both in Israel and abroad. On Gameday at Jerusalem’s Pais Arena they are extremely active as well.
The Owner
Head of the family, Eyal Homsky from the ownership group, leaves it all on the table when cheering on the team. You’ll see him jumping up and down on the sidelines, clapping at the good plays and letting the referees know when he doesn’t exactly like a call.
But it’s Homsky’s ability to allow Harel, Katash and the rest of the staff to do their jobs with dignity and respect that makes the whole club run smoothly both behind the scenes and in the forefront.
With Ori Allon’s departure after last season, there was serious concern about what would become of the club. Would it falter and perhaps fall apart? That alternate reality couldn’t be further from the truth.
Harel and Homsky spoke to the players ahead of the game. They told them that they we’re proud that they made it to the final and they put no pressure on them to win the cup.
However, the players knew what they had to do and came out firing on all cylinders after halftime. Closing out games has been something Jerusalem has had trouble with this year. But this past week saw Hapoel get over that hump. It didn’t just close the games, it annihilated its opponents and perfectly executed its game plan.
The Fans
Fan support has been excellent throughout the season and the supporters have certainly been a force throughout all of the competitions. The team feeds off of their energy and will need them when they play in the Champions League playoffs.
Management already began talking about the importance of the fans playing an instrumental part in the club’s success going forward. The Reds need them if they want to go all the way.
The Challenges
Will that be enough to take home the Champions League title and the league championship? There are some very worthy opponents in Europe while the Winner League features Maccabi Tel Aviv, a team that schooled the Reds earlier this season and plays in the more prestigious  Euroleague.
Time will tell, but there is a certain path that Hapoel Jerusalem is taking and the State Cup was just one of the goals along the way.
It’s clear however, that for Jerusalem to have a chance to sweep the next two titles up for grabs, it will have to keep to its recipe for success this season.
Right now, Hapoel Jerusalem is the Israel State Cup champion, possibly the first title of three this season.
We Are Family.
Joshua Halickman, the Sports Rabbi, covers Israeli sports and organizes Israel sports adventures for tourists and residents. Follow the Sports Rabbi on Twitter @thesportsrabbi or visit www.sportsrabbi.com. Feel free to contact the Sports Rabbi via email at sportsrabbi9@gmail.com