Basketball / Maccabi Officials Bet Against Gerhson

Only an unexpected twist will prevent Maccabi Tel Aviv from firing head coach Pini Gershon.

Only an unexpected twist will prevent Maccabi Tel Aviv from firing head coach Pini Gershon. Maccabi announced yesterday that it would decide on his fate today. However, sources in the know say the team's officials are leaning toward releasing the embattled Gershon, who coached Maccabi to its first State Cup since 2006, but also had a disappointing Euroleague season and lost the Super League championship final to Gilboa/Galil last month.

About an hour after Gershon arrived at a meeting with Maccabi management yesterday, he stormed out of Mizrahi's office in a rage, one source relates, adding that the coach left after being asked to sign off on a code of ethics as a condition for maintaining his job. The officials served Gershon the documents after explaining him that his behavior during the past season was "unacceptable," according to the source, who is not authorized to speak publicly on the matte.

Gershon apparently retorted with his own personal take on all the problems Maccabi suffered this past season, and refused to take responsibility for any of them - not the disconnect between the team's top players and assistant coach Sharon Drucker, not his embarrassing ejection from an exhibition game against the New York Knicks in October at Madison Square Garden, not his criticism of the league administration, not his public humiliation of Barak Netanya coach Arik Alfasi, and not his loss in the final.

"After each of the owners spoke to him from the heart and listed their legitimate complaints against him, they felt Gershon simply did not speak to the point," said a senior Maccabi official last night. At that point, Gershon was asked to leave and was told he would receive an answer within 24 hours about his future.

Maccabi officials denied yesterday that he was asked to sign a code of ethics.

It appears that the only thing that prevented the Maccabi management yesterday from firing Gershon was a legal issue: The coach has already made it clear he has no intention of forgoing the financial compensation stipulated in his contract.

According to the source, Maccabi officials are looking into the legal ramifications of the coach refusing to sign the ethics document and whether there is justification for reducing his severance pay.

However, it seems certain that if Gershon doesn't apologize today and admit to making the mistakes spelled out by the owners, he will not be able to stay on with Maccabi.

David Blatt - who was an assistant to Gershon with Maccabi during the 1999/2000 campaign, went on to coach Russia to the 2007 Eurobasket championship and is now with Aris Thessaloniki - is considered to be a possible replacement, but paying Gershon's compensation and the salary Blatt would demand make his appointment highly unlikely.

Current assistant coach Sharon Drucker, who met with the Recanati family last week, is a more realistic option. Maccabi officials also do not rule out the candidacy of Oded Katash, who beat Gershon in the championship as the Gilboa/Galil coach.