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Maccabi Haifa's rise from the dead incorporates two hot trends: the return of legendary teams from the 1980s (Holon and Afula) and the backing of eccentric millionaires.

This time around the businessman in question is one Jeff Rosen, a wealthy Miami resident, who landed in Israel to get in touch with his roots.

Rosen had originally targeted Hapoel Tel Aviv but backed off for the obvious reasons. His attentions drifted north to Haifa after hearing of efforts to resuscitate the Maccabi basketball club.

Rosen met with Ilan Beck and Gili Schwartzmann, two local businessmen, who two years ago turned Maccabi Bat Galim into Maccabi Haifa after the original and once-legendary team dissipated in the lower leagues under the name Maccabi Haifa Basketball Club.

Rosen took the bait and last week he bought into the team, which went up to the second division last season. Rosen promised support of several hundred thousand dollars a season, with the aim of taking the team into the Premier League.

"Our agreement with Jeff is that once we get promotion to the Premier League, he will continue with us for a further three years," says Beck. "But even if we don't do that in our first season, he will continue with us. If we do get promoted, Jeff will put up a budget of over a million dollars a season with the aim of gaining a place in Europe."

No easy task

Former Nahariya coach Avi Ashkenazi will be on the sidelines for Haifa this season. He has been there before. In the mid-90s, he took the team up to the Premier League, but he doesn't promise it will be an easy task this time around.

"I have to be very cautious with what I say, because there are at least four teams that want to gain promotion and have the backing and the players -- Givat Shmuel, Be'er Sheva, Kiryat Ata and Yavne," says Ashkenazi.

"There are a lot of people in Haifa who are thirsty for basketball. The news that Jeff bought the team really made waves in town, especially with it being summer and so little going on in sports. People come up to me in the street and they have really high expectations. But they and the new owner need to understand that you can't just buy a team and gain automatic promotion. I hope he [Rosen] knows what he's getting into. Everyone remembers how things ended with Manbar at Hapoel Jerusalem and Schlesinger at Haifa."

Former center Tomer Steinhauer, whose career started off and came to an end at Haifa, smiles faintly when he talks of Rosen's venture.

Local talent

Steinhauer was part of the team that gained promotion to the second division last season, but doesn't want the pressure of a return to the big time.

He feels that if Haifa wants to last in the long run it needs to build up cadre of young local players.

"If we want to go up and stay up we need to take advantage of next season to give a lot of time to home players. If we just want to go up and then go back down, there's just no point."