The Last Word: Holon's title a flash in the pan

There'll never be level playing field if 1 team gets the most money and a guaranteed Euroleague place.

jeremy last 88 (photo credit: )
jeremy last 88
(photo credit: )
There was an expected sense of euphoria in the Hapoel Holon locker room after Miki Dorsman's team produced the most stunning of wins over Maccabi Tel Aviv in the BSL championship game last Thursday night. Point guard Moran Rot was dancing around, clearly overcome with joy, center Elton Brown was roaring congratulations to his teammates and Dorsman himself was drenched with water after receiving the traditional celebratory reward. Holon's achievement of taking the title from Maccabi Tel Aviv for the first time since 1993, and only the second time in 39 years, was immense, but unfortunately it is not going to have the long term effect on Israeli basketball that many hoops fans in this country wish it could. It was a beautiful win for an underdog of epic proportions, but will have little influence, if any, on next season or the coming decades. Maccabi Tel Aviv's dominance on and off the court has ensured that it has been allowed to develop into a strong European side, but generally made for an unexciting league where the battle is only between the lesser teams for second place. That Holon stood out as the best team in the country for much of the season while many of the other clubs lost their fear of Maccabi Tel Aviv was good for the sport in general. However, professional sport is built on money, and financially nothing at all will be changed come next September when it all starts again. In fact, some of the teams which surprisingly proved to be strong challengers to Maccabi over the last season may even be hit by budget cuts rather than increases. Ironi Nahariya, which edged the much wealthier Hapoel Jerusalem for fourth position in the regular season standings and a coveted place in the Final Four is set to lose the sponsorship of Iscar which has pumped money into the club for the last four years. It is unlikely a new sponsor for Nahariya will create anywhere near the level of funding needed to challenge for the top Basketball is not a profitable business for the teams' owners, even Maccabi Tel Aviv just about breaks even each year after the expenses it has to lay out on players and travel, despite the large amounds of money it receives from television deals and sponsorship. While Maccabi attracts 11,000 season ticket holders each year, desparate to see the team play in the Euroleague, no other team's arena holds more than 2,600 people and for most clubs there is a lack funds. Hapoel Jerusalem, may be the second richest team in the league and its management will no doubt be disappointed with the way its season went, but it is the only team that comes even relatively close to Tel Aviv in terms of budget. Next season things will not change and may get worse with Arkadi Gaydamak not expected to invest in the team as he does in the past. Which now brings us to Holon. In most other professional sports leagues around the world success breeds success. A team which wins the title would expect to receive a cash windfall from sponsors and entry into Europe's top competition. In basketball this is far from the case. Holon did not even have a shirt sponsor last season and its main funder is owner/coach Dorsman. The team's best players, P.J. Tucker, Brown and Chester Simmons, will most probably leave for pastures new and it will be up to the coach to start again and try and build a new team around the remains of the old one. And, due to Maccabi Tel Aviv's contract with the Euroleague, Holon will have to be satisfied with a place in the less prestigious ULEB Cup. Perhaps there is a little hope. The fact is that Maccabi was challenged over the past nine months like never before, losing a record 10 games. The other teams will come back for the new season rejuvenated and with a sense of belief that has not previously existed. They must, however, not get their hopes up too high, because there will never be a level playing field in a league where one team gets the largest sum of the money and a guaranteed place in the elite competition in Europe.