Behind former Israeli-League legendary basketball coach Ralph Klein, current and ex-coaches Pini Gershon, Tzvika Sherf, Brad Greenberg, Oded Katash, and Muli Katzurin are among the list for Israel's All-Time Most Winning Coaches.
However, in a race for the All-Time No. 1 seeded coach from a percentage viewpoint, Klien, with 76.3%, comes in second after Maccabi Tel Aviv's prime possession -- head coach David Blatt.
Blatt, 54, the oldest among the Euroleague Final Four competing coaches with a 76.7% winning percentage over 262 domestic competition appearances.
After exceeding all Euro-expectations and outperforming varsity powerhouse CSKA Moscow in the semifinals of Europe's most elite competition, Blatt is 40 minutes and one victory away from leading one of Maccabi's greatest underdog teams to a European title.
In honor of tonight's showdown at the Mediolanum Forum against Euroleague winning-favorites Real Madrid, Eurobasket caught up with coach Blatt for an unorthodox one-on-one.
What's your daily schedule on game-day?
06:00-07:00 - "When playing in the Euroleague I normally wake up between six to seven AM, naturally, without an alarm clock. I take one of my kids to school and desperately battle the endless traffic leading to Nokia Arena in Tel Aviv. It's a nightmare."
08:00-12:00 - "Between 08:30-09:00, depending on traffic I'd arrive at the arena and start analyzing game-film with the coaching staff until the players arrive for practice."
12:00-17:00 - "Following practice we all attend a team lunch and from there the players and staff fall out their separate ways. I return to Nokia Arena for a little more game preparation and rest in our terrible 'coach's room'. Don't get me wrong, in terms of respect and professionalism Maccabi are the best in Europe. However, when it comes to staff treatment? Maccabi are among the lower ranked teams in Europe. You've seen our coach's room, you've been inside. You know what I'm talking about. We're four coaches (Guy Goodes, Alon Stein, Nikola Vujcic and Blatt) in a pit with no window, no air, underground, and with a very little hope."
17:00-19:00 - "After my nap I'd get a 90 minutes workout in, shower, and go over some final touches before tip-off."
19:00-21:00 - "Roughly two hours before game-time, when people start rolling in, I suffer from anxiety because our coach's room turns into the Grand Central Station. Every possible person in the world finds a reason to pass by our pit. It's not always convenient, but it's part the Maccabi experience. Again, with regards to respect and professionalism - Maccabi are No. 1. Still, maintenance isn't their strong side and it's my business to note why the glass is not full."
Game-03:30 - "After the game I have 101 responsibilities, whether it's to media, management, players, sponsors and the random requests by everybody on the planet. You don't know where it begins and can't imagine where it will end, but it's relatively pleasant because when at home with normally win. When the arena clears out I relax and check up on the other Euroleague games and head home after 01:00. It's much harder for me to sleep after games rather then before because of the adrenalin rush, so I'll probably fall asleep between 03:00-03:30."
There's an assumption that with previous Maccabi coaches, management were easy to pull the trigger. True?
"I disagree. I believe things at Maccabi have changed and the management and ownership have developed patience and a long term perspective. It might have been true in the past, but things have changed for the better."
What are your weaknesses?
"That's a job interview question. Normally you would expect of me to turn my weaknesses into an advantage. I wish I was able to sleep better. I'd come to work more energized."
What do you need to improve as a coach?
"There's a special saying by John Wooden that I use quite often. 'It's what you learn after you know it all that counts.' There are many aspects in the game I can improve on, it's a process that only ends when I retire."
When did you last cry?
"They will laugh at me at home, but I'm not a cryer. It's hard for me to cry. I cry inside. Normally what gets me choked up are my kids."
What are topics of conversation at a Blatt dinner table?
"A lot of basketball. We're a family of sports before anything. Even those who didn't play the game were always around players. Basketball isn't the only topic of conversation but definitely the most popular one.
Is there room for a foreign coach at Maccabi?
"To bring a rookie coach, a first timer, to Maccabi is very difficult. Even for me, when I coached Maccabi for the first time it was very tough and I came from within the system after being an assistant during one of the greatest eras in the history of the organization. Being an Israeli is an advantage when coaching Maccabi because this club is part of the Israeli society and you have to breath that society and live it in order to succeed. There's a special saying in Hebrew, 'everyone has a replacement.' Would it be easy finding one for me? I'm not sure. Not sure at all."
How do you scout players?
"I'll tell you a very special story about Nate Huffman. At the time, (then Maccabi head coach Pini Gershon) asked me to watch film on Croatian Velimir Perasovic who played for Spanish Fuenlabrada. We didn't have DVD's or stuff like that. I was using old A-Tracks for scouting. So I'm watching the game and I see this white dude whom I've never heard of doing pretty amazing stuff. I immediately called Pini and said, 'listen, Perasovic is good but I'm telling you we have to sign this white guy nobody ever heard of by the name of Nate Huffman.' Pini responds saying, 'who? What's a Huffman?' I told him to watch the tape. An hour and a half later we completed one biggest steals in European basketball history. Nowadays scouting is different. You have scouts, management personnel with their own opinions and another million different advisors, it's really complicated."
What was your most heartbreaking loss?
"I've had many disappointments and tough loses. The one game I can't seem to let go of, the one that is hardest for me to swallow, was last year's Israeli-League championship game against Maccabi Haifa. You need to understand that this was my first-ever playoffs loss. I was 28-0 in my career in the Israeli playoffs. Man, that was a tough loss."
What was your greatest victory while coaching Maccabi?
"There's a very specific game that people don't really talk about. It was during my first coaching season at Maccabi. We had a really tough season but we came one game away from qualifying got the Euroleague Final Four. Our last game, which we had to win by five-or-more point to advance was in Spain against Vitoria, then Tau Ceramica. The Vitoria team we lost to twice this season is nothing compared to Tau's 2002 squad. That was their All-Time Dream Team. They had Jose Calderon, Andres Nocioni, Luis Scola, Fabricio Oberto, and Elmer Bennett. We got to Vitoria and blew them out by 29 points, 94-65. It was the most unforgettable game I ever coached. I'll never forget it."
Which player was most difficult to see leave Maccabi?
"I'm sorry we couldn't have kept Richard Hendrix. Keith Langford was outstanding, Jeremy Pargo was great, but what hurt me most, what caused me the most pain as a coach was the injury for Doron Perkins and that fact that we couldn't keep him. Doron was our Most Valuable Player. Not Sofo Schortsanitis, not Hednrix, nor were Chuck Edison or Pargo -- Perkins was one of the most fearless, greatest warriors and biggest winners I ever coached. What happened to him was a tragedy. If he hadn't gotten injured we would've won the 2011 Euroleague championship. I guarantee it. He was our defensive matchup for Dimitris Diamantidis. Perkins was a killer and I'm still hurting over his injury."
What are your thoughts on rumors linking you to the NBA?
"Because I have one of greatest position in the world, I don't eat sleep or breath the NBA. This could change in the near future, but the NBA is very much an issue of timing and connections. There are many good coaches in the United States so nobody is waiting at my front door asking me to become a coach or an assistant in the NBA. On the other hand, I'm not really chasing it either, but that could change in about a month."
Where do you see yourself coaching first: in the NBA or the Israeli national-team?
"In the NBA."
Which players do you regret not coaching?
"That's a good question. Arvydas Sabonis, Trajan Langdon, Luis Scola and Tyus Edney."
Who throughout history would you choose to dine with?
"Mahatma Gandhi. I'd like to know how he brought so many people with hate and disrespect together. From the basketball world? I would kill to sit at Red Auerbach's Chinese restaurant in Washington. He would sit with a close circle of people and I'd love to be part of that parliament."
Historic season to culminate with 2017 Final Four in Istanbul! - 4 hours ago
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A world-class city that witnessed two of pro basketball's most spectacular season-ending shots ever will have the same opportunity again next spring when the 2017 Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Final Four returns to Istanbul, Turkey, Euroleague Basketball announced on Tuesday. Istanbul will host the best four EuroLeague teams from May 19 to 21 in what is sure to be a thrilling finish to a ground-breaking season, the first in European basketball history in which all the teams in the continent... [read more]
A world-class city that witnessed two of pro basketball's most spectacular season-ending shots ever will have the same opportunity again next spring when the 2017 Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Final Four returns to Istanbul, Turkey, Euroleague Basketball announced on Tuesday. Istanbul will host the best four EuroLeague teams from May 19 to 21 in what is sure to be a thrilling finish to a ground-breaking season, the first in European basketball history in which all the teams in the continent's premier competition are guaranteed to play each other. The 2017 Final Four will take place for the second time at the Sinan Erdem Dome, which officially opened its doors on April 16, 2010 and two years later played host to a memorable Final Four that was one of the most successful in EuroLeague history. "Basketball has seen outstanding growth in Turkey in recent years, while Istanbul already has a Final Four tradition that's second to none, so we are excited to be crowning the EuroLeague champion there next May," Jordi Bertomeu, Euroleague Basketball President and CEO, said. "We will return to the Sinan Erdem Dome, one of the finest arenas anywhere in which to watch basketball and the perfect venue to culminate a season in which fans will see all the stars in their own cities for the first time in history. With the way Turkish fans continue embracing the EuroLeague more and more each year, it will be great to have them with us for the very biggest games at the Final Four." The event will feature an expansion of a strong relationship begun at the start of this decade between Euroleague Basketbal and Turkish Airlines, which had a pivotal role in bringing the Final Four back to Turkey and will host the event, as well. As title sponsor of the competition, Turkish Airlines heads a family of Euroleague Basketball partners in Turkey to which a new member was recently added, Odeabank. The season's crowning weekend also will mark the first Final Four to be held under the 10-year joint venture between Euroleague Basketball and IMG. 'We highly treasure our partnership with Euroleague Basketball because it has allowed us for many years to be part of a great sport - commented Mr lker Ayci - This year we are even more proud to be the title sponsor of this championship, since the Final Four will actually take place in our city of birth and global hub, Istanbul. We are sure that the international atmosphere and innovative traits of our city will add an extra touch of innovation and thrill to such an amazing event. Furthermore, every year we commit to ideating, together with Euroleague Basketball, new and exciting ways to deliver a sporting experience that truly goes beyond expectations to all basketball fans and travellers'. Istanbul has been the unforgettable scene of an unmatched history of memorable Final Four moments. The 1992 Final Four ended with legend Aleksandar Djordjevic making a three-point shot with time running out as Partizan Belgrade won its only continental title in an upset at Abdi Ipekci Arena. Two decades later, Olympiacos Piraeus rallied from 19 points behind with 11 minutes to play at Sinan Erdem to defeat CSKA Moscow on the season's final shot, by Georgios Printezis. The Sinan Erdem Dome has a capacity for 16,000 spectators for basketball and, in addition to the 2012 Final Four, has hosted such prestigious basketball events as the 2010 world championships. The upcoming 2016-17 Turkish Airlines EuroLeague season that ends in Istanbul will be the first in which there is no possibility that two opponents can meet for the first time at the Final Four. The new competition system features 30 regular season games among the competition's 16 teams, each playing the other 15 both home and away before four playoff series decide the semifinalists who will compete for the title in Istanbul. As such, the champion who wears the crown in Istanbul next May will always be remembered as the first who had to go through every single one of the very best clubs in Europe in order to survive. The new champion must play a minimum of 35 games, as well, making it also the longest season ever to survive in order to become Europe's elite club competition champion. The 2016-17 EuroLeague season opens on October 12 in the Spanish capital of Madrid with the replay of the first game of the modern EuroLeague on the same date in 2001, Real Madrid vs. Olympiacos Piraeus. Courtesy of: euroleague.net
Defending champion CSKA Moscow (VTB) tabbed 29-year old American forward Jeff Ayres (206-109kg-87, college: Arizona State). He played most recently at LA Clippers in the NBA. But in 19 games he averaged just 1.7ppg and 1.2rpg last season. Ayres also played that season for another team D-Fenders in U.S. semi-pro league D-League where in two games he had very impressive stats: 16.5ppg, 13.0rpg and 1.5apg. In 2009 he was drafted by Sacramento Kings (NBA) in second round (31st overall). The f... [read more]
Defending champion CSKA Moscow (VTB) tabbed 29-year old American forward Jeff Ayres (206-109kg-87, college: Arizona State). He played most recently at LA Clippers in the NBA. But in 19 games he averaged just 1.7ppg and 1.2rpg last season. Ayres also played that season for another team D-Fenders in U.S. semi-pro league D-League where in two games he had very impressive stats: 16.5ppg, 13.0rpg and 1.5apg. In 2009 he was drafted by Sacramento Kings (NBA) in second round (31st overall). The former Arizona State staris in his eighth season in pro basketball. Ayres was selected to D-League All-Star Game in 2016. He won NBA championship title in 2014. He has played previously professionally in NBA (Portland Trail Blazers, San Antonio Spurs and Indiana Pacers) and D-League (Salt Lake City Stars and Iowa Energy). Let's have closer look into Ayres' outlook:
(by Borko Popic for NBADraft.net in 2009)
He is a competitor, battles at all times to establish post position and is very active His motor is excellent and he shows it by running the floor as well as anyone in the country Around the basket he is very active and he knows how to move without the ball to get to open spaces Has been the beneficiary of some great passes, but a lot of it has to do with his ability to read the action as well as being able to catch pretty much any pass that is thrown his way.
His repertoire in the post is limited, as a result he does not demand much attention from defenses Struggles getting his shot of against bigger defenders.
Andrew Goudelock out for a month with thigh injury - 5 days ago
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Maccabi Fox Tel Aviv guard Andrew Goudelock(190-G-88, college: Charleston) will miss 4 weeks of action after being diagnosed with a thigh injury. Goudelock left the preseason game against AEK Athens in the first quarter after sustaining the injury and didn't play against Panathinaikos and Barcelona. On Monday, he went through an MRI exam that revealed a partial muscle tear. Goudelock will be treated with Physiotherapy. Courtesy of: maccabi.co.il [read more]
Maccabi Fox Tel Aviv guard Andrew Goudelock (190-G-88, college: Charleston) will miss 4 weeks of action after being diagnosed with a thigh injury. Goudelock left the preseason game against AEK Athens in the first quarter after sustaining the injury and didn't play against Panathinaikos and Barcelona. On Monday, he went through an MRI exam that revealed a partial muscle tear. Goudelock will be treated with Physiotherapy. Courtesy of: maccabi.co.il
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