Pini steps aside as Mac TA coach

Gershon expected to stay with the yellow-and-blue in an advisory role; Blatt next?

Pini Gershon angry 311 (photo credit: BSL)
Pini Gershon angry 311
(photo credit: BSL)
Pini Gershon paid the price for a poor season as head coach of Maccabi Tel Aviv on Monday when meetings with the club’s owners ended with him handing in his resignation in order to allow the club to officially begin its search for his replacement.
It had been heavily rumored that Gershon would not continue after failing to lead Maccabi to the BSL title or Euroleague Final Four, but the news was not confirmed until Monday afternoon.
Gershon is, however, expected to continue working at Maccabi in an advisory role, although the specifics of the position have yet to be decided.
Former Maccabi coach David Blatt, who ran team affairs at Greek side Aris Thessaloniki last season, is favored to replace Gershon, with assistant coach Sharon Drucker and Hapoel Gilboa/Galil coach Oded Katash behind him in the bookies’ rankings.
Great things had been expected from Gershon when he took over from Effi Birenboim midseason in November 2008 for his third stint as Maccabi coach.
And even though he was unable to turn last season’s campaign around, with Maccabi bowing out of the Euroleague in the Top 16 stage, at least the team won the Israeli league title.
Gershon’s 2009/10 preseason began with a less than auspicious blip when he was ejected from the floor at Madison Square Garden after arguing with a referee during an exhibition game against the New York Knicks.
And the season itself was an unmitigated disaster for the 58-year-old, who built his own squad only to see it fall to Partizan Belgrade in the Euroleague quarterfinals and then crash to a 13- point defeat by Gilboa in the BSL final.
After two days of intensive talks with Maccabi President Shimon Mizrahi and owners David Federman and Shai Recanati it was clear that Gershon had lost the confidence of the management and had no choice but to resign.
It was an embarrassing mark on the career of the man who led Tel Aviv to three European titles – the 2001 Supraleague and back to back Euroleague titles in 2004 and 2005.
Maccabi managed to hold on to some self-respect by defeating Bnei Hasharon to win the State Cup in February, but the 90-77 loss to Katash’s Gilboa/Galil at last month’s BSL Final Four proved to be the final nail in Gershon’s coffin.
“During meetings today and yesterday Pini Gershon has informed the club that he would not like to continue to coach Maccabi Tel Aviv in the 2010/11 season,” a Maccabi Tel Aviv statement read.
“The club deeply thanks the decorated coach for all his achievements, including European cups, Israeli championships and State Cups.” Fans can expect to see a whole new Maccabi side next season, whoever comes in to take over from Gershon.
Already last week, the club parted ways with American guard Andrew Wisniewski, and more players are likely to follow.
Since losing in the Euroleague title game in 2006 and Gershon’s decision to move to Olympiacos, Maccabi has been through five coaches, including Gershon’s return, and practically reinvented the squad each summer.
However it has never recaptured the glory years of the mid 2000s, and before leaving the country Wisniewski warned that more changes will likely not have a positive affect on the club’s long term future.
However, with Blatt waiting in the wings, a new era may be on the horizon.
The Boston-born 51-year-old, who coached Maccabi in the early 2000s, has been linked with Tel Aviv on a number of occasions in recent years but the club is believed to have decided against him due to high salary expectations.
With Gershon out of the way it appears that Blatt’s time has come and Federman, Recanati and Mizrahi are willing to invest money and hopes in the man who led Russia to the EuroBasket title in 2007.