Sinai Says: Greenberg coaches Haifa into spotlight

I couldn’t help but react with cynicism when Greenberg spoke so excitedly about joining Maccabi Haifa.

I must admit that I couldn’t help but react with cynicism when Brad Greenberg spoke so excitedly about joining Maccabi Haifa at the start of the season.
After all, how could a 58-year-old former NBA assistant coach, NBA GM and NCAA Division I head coach genuinely be thrilled about taking over one of Israeli basketball’s worst teams over the past couple of seasons? Now three months in, it seems Greenberg has lost nothing of his enthusiasm for coaching in Israel.
If anything, he sounded elated by his first few months in the country when I spoke to him earlier this week.
“I love it,” he gushed. “Israel is an amazing country. I’m going to start working for the tourism board because when I get on the phone I have nothing but amazing things to tell people about how beautiful the country is. It really is a remarkable place.”
Greenberg has also been thoroughly impressed by the BSL and with the quality of coaching.
“I think it is a terrific league,” he noted. “Watching games on video doesn’t do justice to how good the league is and how competitive the teams are.”
Greenberg, a former assistant coach for the Los Angeles Clippers (1984-86) and New York Knicks (1987), became the General Manager and Vice President for Basketball Operations for the Philadelphia 76ers in 1996 before going on to work with his brother Seth Greenberg at Virginia Tech (2003-07).
Between 2007 and 2011 he spent four seasons coaching Radford University, but his tenure ended in acrimony and controversy.
Greenberg was handed a fiveyear, show-cause sanction by the NCAA in February of last year and banned from doing any recruiting during that period following an NCAA investigation.
The case initially focused on recruiting inducements and extra benefits to players, but it was the Greenberg-led effort to mislead investigators that exacerbated the seriousness of the violations.
The sanctions effectively preclude Greenberg, who left Radford at the end of the 2010/11 season amid the investigation, from working as a college coach for five years.
Last season, he worked as a head coach in Venezuela’s top division with the Bucaneros De La Guaira and his tenure in Haifa has gotten off to a very promising start.
Haifa showed plenty of potential in winning eight of its first 11 games of the campaign, before disappointingly losing its past two contests to drop to third place in the standings.
“I was cautiously optimistic [ahead of the season],” he admitted.
“I did not know the league well enough and what other teams would look like to have a strong feel of how we would do. I knew we had quality foreigners, but I didn’t know how the players would fit together and who else would complement them so I’m pleased with how we have done.”
Nevertheless, Greenberg is far from content with how his team has performed over its past couple of games, falling to an Hapoel Holon side that had lost its previous seven games before being thrashed on Sunday 91- 74 by Hapoel Gilboa/Galil, which entered the encounter rock-bottom of the standings.
“I’m not happy with how we have played of late and we are certainly concerned with that,” he said.
“When we look good we are a pretty physical team, but we have not been doing that the last two games.
“We haven’t played with the authority we need to play with at either end of the floor. When we played well we really moved the ball and a very high percentage of our baskets were assisted baskets. We’ve got to go back to the drawing board and get back to where we were before.”
The Greens have been rocked in recent weeks by a tax investigation, which has seen vice chairman Arnon Shiran arrested and released on bail in suspicion that the club had evaded paying income tax, signing players to two contracts, one in Israel and one in the US.
“I don’t want to make any excuses for how we played,” insisted Greenberg. “We were able to focus on playing and it’s on us to play good basketball. We just haven’t played well enough to win.”
Haifa hosts Hapoel Eilat next week in a battle for second position in the standings behind Maccabi Tel Aviv and Greenberg is confident his team will return to winning ways.
“The results take care of themselves if you play good basketball,” he said. “We have the potential to be a team that can be a contender, but you have to play at a high level to do that. We have not done that the last couple of games.
“If we are not going to advance at some point in the season I want it to be because the other team played a superb game and not because we didn’t play well.”
Haifa’s prospects of long-term success are almost entirely dependent on the continued support of American owner Jeff Rosen.
According to Greenberg, Rosen has been very pleased with the team’s season to date and as long as he continues to invest in the club, Haifa’s future looks to be nothing but bright.
“Jeff is an outstanding owner. He has really tried to do everything possible to give us the best chance to be successful,” Greenberg said.
“As a coach you can’t ask for anything more than an owner who wants to win. At the midway point he was very happy,” added Greenberg.
“We exceeded our expectations.
We had a strong first half, but we have started off the second round with a few bumps in the road.
“We have got to work our way back to being the team that we are capable of being.”