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Only a week ago, Zvika Sherf was preparing to make the 20-minute drive from his home in north Tel Aviv to the offices of the Israel Basketball Association, for a press conference in which he would be declared the IBA's director of basketball operations - a new role that would oversee all of the national teams and also include chairmanship of the association's professional committee.

But some members of the IBA management objected to the appointment, and so Sherf stayed at home.

Yesterday morning he embarked on the eight-hour journey to Russia, in order to sign on as coach of Spartak Saint Petersburg of the Russian Super League.

"Zvika loves basketball, and he's going to coach," one of his close associates said yesterday.

"In Israel they didn't want him. In Russia, they do. There they [value] him - not only him, also Muli Katzurin, Arik Shivek and other Israeli coaches. After his appointment [as IBA director of basketball operations] didn't work out, they told him he could only be a professional manager. He told them his decision would depend on what his responsibilities would be. Sherf can still be a professional manager - he doesn't need to be in Israel all the time in order to set out training programs and select coaches."

IBA heads were taken aback by the sudden decision, since all last week they made continued attempts to persuade association members to support the appointment, despite the objections. According a statement released by the IBA, "We received the news with surprise, but understand the step he has taken and wish him the best of luck. We will search for another candidate for the role."

Motti Amsalem, who was a member of the subcommittee that recommended Sherf for the job, said "Zvika did what was right for him, and justifiably so. The moment his appointment wasn't ratified, it dropped off the agenda for him. There have been no discussions with him since. We tried, but failed."

Not a functionary

Interim IBA chairman Shimon Mizrahi said: "Zvika always expressed his great desire to coach a team. He always hoped that that is what would happen. He had a chance and grabbed it with four hands.

Even if he'd been appointed last week by the association, it's impossible to know whether he would have asked to leave.

He was also signed for another year at Maccabi [Tel Aviv, in 1997] but then asked to be released from his contract [to coach at PAOK Thessaloniki in Greece]. We didn't lose a coach, but a professional manager because this is a daily job - but he can continue to coach the national team if he wants to stay on."

IBA executive member Shaul Eisenberg, who was responsible for torpedoing Sherf's appointment, told Haaretz that "I wanted Zvika as coach and professional manager, and apparently I was right because St. Petersburg took him to be their coach, not club chairman. Zvika is a coach, not a functionary."

Sherf's departure leaves the IBA in chaos in terms of its professional structure. "Everything will [have to] start from the beginning again," said Amsalem.

"We'll have to think about a new structure, and a new candidate. We'll need new candidates in order for the national teams to begin to function again. But we're under no pressure - there's time."