Basketball / Super League / Maccabi Haifa takes a chance on a can-do American
Maccabi Haifa will try to change unimpressive streak of foreign coaches with the arrival of American Jewish coach Brad Greenberg.
Over the past two decades, Israeli basketball teams have been loath to gamble on foreign coaches. The unimpressive list includes Vinko Jelovac and Neven Spahija, who each coached Maccabi Tel Aviv for a season, and Mladen Ostojic, who ran Haifa/Nesher for a season and Ironi Ramat Gan for a handful of games.
Maccabi Haifa will try to change that impression with the arrival of American Jewish coach Brad Greenberg.
Arnon Shiran, Maccabi Haifa's chairman, said owner Jeff Rosen knows coaches from the United States and wanted a coach who shared his approach. He said Rosen wanted a coach who wouldn't just run one or two practices a day but would teach and lead his players.
Greenberg, 58, played basketball for American University from 1974 to 1977 and served as an assistant coach there after graduation. He got his first job in the NBA with the Los Angeles Clippers, also as an assistant coach, when he was 30. He later joined the New York Knicks in that capacity.
He served as general manager for the Philadelphia 76ers in the 1990s, during which the team picked Allen Iverson in the draft. He moved on to the Portland Trail Blazers, where he was director of player personnel.
Greenberg finally landed his first head coaching job with Radford University four years ago but left in 2011 amid allegations of recruiting violations. This year, the NCAA slapped him with a five year show-cause penalty, which essentially keeps him away from college ball for the entire period.
After leaving Radford, Greenberg coached in Venezuela and helped in the national team's failed bid to make the London Games.
The job in Israel marks the first time Greenberg will leave the Americas to coach. He says he always wanted to coach in Israel. He says he has friends such as Lou Silver and Howard Lassoff - another American University graduate - who starred in Israel as basketball players.
He has been in the country less than a month but already notices the differences. Greenberg says the Israeli and European leagues rely on the pick-and-roll more than college ball players do. While he plans to introduce the styles he is familiar with, Greenberg plans to adapt to local basketball, too. He stresses that he needs to become more familiar with the Israeli game's tendencies.
"Brad works on all sorts of angles of blocking and passing," says Ido Kozikaro, who rejoined the team this summer. "He's also a nice, positive guy. His basketball is very team-oriented and aggressive."
Greenberg was hired too late to have much say on the Israeli or foreign players other than Pat Calathes and James Thomas, who his staff believe will complement earlier signees Paul Stoll and Donta Smith.
He says he likes the roster but isn't happy with the style of the team, which has lost all its exhibition games. Greenberg says the club is working hard to build an identity but isn't progressing as quickly as he'd like.
Still, he describes the chance to coach Maccabi Haifa is a dream come true.