Spahija seeks to return glory to Mac TA

While coaching staff is set, yellow-and-blue roster still up in the air in effort to rebuild quickly.

Croatian coach Neven Spahija (photo credit: REUTERS)
Croatian coach Neven Spahija
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Maccabi Tel Aviv’s incoming head coach Neven Spahija admitted on Sunday that he intends to completely overhaul the roster. He also set lofty early targets of a domestic BSL and State Cup double, as well as a place in the Euroleague quarterfinals, for next season.
Maccabi’s new coaching staff was introduced in a press conference at Yad Eliyahu Arena on Sunday, with Spahija being joined by lead assistant Guy Goodes and former yellow-and-blue captain Tal Burstein, who will be making his first steps in coaching.
After failing to reach the BSL final in the past three seasons, and on the back of two disastrous Euroleague campaigns, Maccabi seems intent on taking as few risks as possible as it goes through another rebuilding process, bringing back familiar and proven names.
Spahija coached the team in 2006/07 and turned down an offer to continue as an assistant with the Atlanta Hawks to take the job with Maccabi.
Goodes hasn’t worked since he was fired by Maccabi in November 2015 following 17 months as head coach. He had previously worked more than six years as an assistant coach.
Burstein retired five years ago at the age of 32 due to a hip injury. He played 11 years in total at Maccabi, including under Spahija and Goodes in the Croatian’s previous tenure.
Maccabi announced on Saturday that it would not be renewing the contract of captain Guy Pnini after eight years at the club and Spahija indicated he intends to replace as many players as possible.
“I’m very excited and happy to come back, back to Maccabi and back home,” said Spahija, who was given a three-year contract. “There are going to be a lot of changes. In the last couple of years Maccabi didn’t succeed. These results aren’t good enough for the Maccabi organization, the investment and expectations.
“When Maccabi came to interview me I asked them if the entire roster is going to continue. If they told me it would continue I would never have taken the position,” added Spahija.
American-Israeli guard John DiBartolomeo, who helped Maccabi Haifa to the BSL final and was named as the league’s MVP last season, was the yellow- and-blue’s first signing of the summer, but he has since been followed by American-Israeli center Alex Tyus and Jake Cohen, who were part of the team between 2013-2015. Bnei Herzliya forward Karam Mashour is also close to joining the club.
Maccabi is aiming to bring back Tyrese Rice, who led the team to the Euroleague title in 2014 and played for Barcelona last season. One of the team’s new foreign players is expected to be American Michael Roll.
While his signing has yet to be announced by the club, his agent George Dimitropulos confirmed it on Twitter on Sunday. Roll, 30, finished last season with Besiktas in Turkey, averaging 11.1 points, 4.7 assists and 2.8 rebounds per game in the Turkish league. Roll is also a member of the Tunisia national team.
Maccabi is looking for new homes for Gal Mekel and Sylven Landesberg who are both under contract, while Yogev Ohayon could be one of the few players to continue, but only if he accepts a significantly reduced deal.
“I came here to open a new page,” explained Spahija. “In any condition or any situation Maccabi will try to win the domestic championship and cup. For us it is bread and butter. But Europe is another story. I can’t promise we will play in the Final Four, but we will do our best to play in the playoffs next year and we will see what happens.”