Sinai Says: Back to the drawing board for Israeli hoops, hopefully with Blatt

Maccabi Tel Aviv coach is believed to have no interest in coaching the national team, but he would be the perfect man for the job.

David Blatt 370 (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
David Blatt 370
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
If he hasn’t done so already, new Israel Basketball Association chairman Danny Halutz should knock on David Blatt’s door this morning, get down on his knees and beg him to take charge of the national team.
It is not that all the problems of Israeli basketball will be magically solved by Blatt’s appointment in place of Arik Shivek. However, it would at least ensure that the local hoops showcase will be spearheaded by the perfect man for the job and likely guarantee that there would be no repeat of the embarrassing EuroBasket campaign in Slovenia.
Not only did Israel finish bottom of Group A with a humiliating 1-4 record, but it did so by losing to inferior teams, coming no where near to realizing its potential.
There are plenty of extenuating circumstances that Shivek has regularly used over the past two days to help explain his team’s miserable showing in Ljubljana.
The absence of Gal Mekel – who skipped the championships to prepare for his first NBA season with the Dallas Mavericks – the injury to starting center Alex Tyus and the fact Omri Casspi, Yogev Ohayon and Lior Eliyahu were all coming off poor years were only a few of the legitimate excuses for the side’s desperate display.
However, the bottom line is still depressingly clear. Israel was more than capable of progressing at least to the second round of the European Championships and its failure to do so will deservingly cost Shivek his job.
After four years at the helm, the coach’s contract was due to come to an end this summer in any case, and although he refused to be dragged into a discussion regarding his future since Monday’s dejecting defeat to Germany, his comments and body language clearly indicated that he understands he will not be offered an extension.
Shivek repeatedly highlighted the stunning loss to Great Britain in the tournament opener last Wednesday as the reason behind the fiasco. He explained that the fact that Israel’s players choked and gifted the Brits the win by hitting just one of 10 free-throws in the closing stages set off a snowball effect from which the roster did not recover.
Shivek correctly pointed out that he shouldn’t be expected to coach the players how to score from the charity stripe.
However, he forgot to mention that the collapse was seen in the big picture as a natural result of the team’s lack of preparation, for which he is fully responsible.
Israel didn’t hold any of its warm-up games in the early afternoon to try and simulate the encounter against Great Britain and the side squandered late leads time and again during those contests.
The writing was on the wall from the outset, but Shivek either ignored it or failed to find a solution for it.
Both options are equally bad.
Shivek claimed the team was unlucky, but the truth is that his players capitulated despite being extremely fortunate.
Israel couldn’t have asked for a better draw and other results in the group played into the blue-and-white’s hands to such an extent that a win over the Germans, who had only pride to play for, would have still seen the side advance despite a losing 2-3 record.
Shivek most certainly earned his chance to be Israel coach, but with just one meaningful victory from eight EuroBasket games over two championships, he has also fully earned his ouster.
Blatt – with his experience of coaching the Russian national team, which he guided to the European title in 2007 and an Olympic bronze medal at London 2012 – is the obvious choice and everyone at the IBA knows that.
However, the Maccabi Tel Aviv coach is believed to have no interest in the job.
In 2005, Blatt was named as the Israel coach, only to have to step down from the position before even having a chance to guide the team in a single training session after the IBA belatedly established that he would not be allowed to lead the blue-and-white until he officially received his Israeli coaching certificate.
The absurdly ironic fact that he had been coaching in the league since 1993 and spent years as a tutor at the coaching school was somehow lost on the IBA.
Blatt may well decline the offer to guide the national team, but Halutz needs to do all in his power to try and sway him.
The situation has gotten to the point of embarrassment. As a nation, Israel is historically known for smashing the glass ceiling of its potential, not failing to even meet expectations.
In this vain, Israeli basketball must start afresh and appeal to Blatt, a new, yet familiar, leader who will tap into the talent that is clearly there to exorcise the ghosts of the past before beginning to tackle the limitless future, one basket at a time.
[email protected]