After struggling the past several years, it seems Maccabi Haifa has finally found the right man to lead the team. In the off season, Maccabi Haifa owner Jeff Rosen decided to make an unusual move and hire Jewish American head coach, Brad Greenberg. The move was criticized by the media, as there was speculation an American would not be able to adjust to the Israeli style of play -- boy were they wrong.
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Going into the 21st round of the Israeli Basketball League, Maccabi Haifa has a record of 13-7, good enough for second place overall behind Maccabi Tel Aviv. Not only that, but Maccabi Haifa will have six players represented at next week’s All-Star game hosted in Haifa. Greenberg has coached in the college ranks, NBA level and abroad in Venezuela. He is also widely known for being the Philadelphia 76ers general manager who drafted Allen Iverson with the number one overall pick in 1996 NBA Draft.
After this week’s huge victory over Hapoel Jerusalem, I had the opportunity to speak with Coach Brad Greenberg and discuss his time in Haifa, his goals in Israel and his relationship with Maccabi Haifa owner Jeff Rosen.
Q: You have coached and worked in all levels of the game, why was it so important for you to come to Israel?
I always wanted to coach in Israel at some point. I felt it would be important to visit Israel and I always followed the league as I had friends playing it. In fact, I had an opportunity to play in Israel after college but I decided to go straight in to coaching. There was always a part of me that was fascinated and interested in coming to Israel. Either by coaching or visiting.
Q: Describe what is like working for Maccabi Haifa?
I'm very fortunate to be part of a great organization. The city of Haifa is lucky to have Jeff Rosen as the owner of its team. Jeff is not only committed to building an elite team but he is equally committed to have his team involved in the community and "service" is a requirement and responsibility of all our players. We have outstanding people of high character on our team, really good people and unselfish people on and off the court. I'm lucky to coach a team that is unselfish. It is without doubt one of the main strengths of our team. I'm equally fortunate to have the help of our two assistant coaches. Rami Hadar and Offer Rahimi have been so valuable and important to our success. It's a team effort all the way around.
Q: What is your relationship with Jeff Rosen?
I got a chance to spend time with him before him offering me the job. After knowing that he was going to be an aggressive owner and serious about the building team, while also giving me input on personnel decisions. I was very excited. He had a lot of respect for my background. It was important for me to help build the roster and add the right pieces. I spent a lot of years building teams in the NBA and I think it’s so important when you are trying to build a team that you really work at it and not just look at Eurobasket stats and pick a player out of the air, you got to do your research. Jeff and I talk all the time. He follows our every move and has been incredibly supportive and is a wonderful owner. I think the city of Haifa and the state of Israel should be very appreciative of what Jeff has done and how he has invested in this team, on the court and off court. The team does countless community service in Haifa.
Q: How important has Gal Mekel’s addition been to your team?
It was a big plus for our team, he is a very good player and I am really happy we were able to add such a talented player to the mix. I liked our team before we added Gal but anytime you can improve your team you should try and do it. I give a lot of credit to our owner Jeff Rosen. He has watched a lot of Israeli basketball and people don’t realize how much he studies the game. He was also very familiar with Gal. It’s been a wonderful addition, he’s a great guy, and a very talented player.
Q: Has Maccabi Haifa thought about ever playing in Europe?
Jeff has talked about the possibility of playing in Europe. It would be fun to do that, as a coach one game a week is great when you win, but if you lose you want to play right away and you don’t want to have to only have to play once a week. I know the players would rather play games then practice five days before we play a game. It would be nice at some point to play in a secondary competition.
Q: What have you been doing for fun in Haifa?
I try to get some exercise every day. I need to exercise to release some stress and it is an important part of my day. I like to read and lately I have been going to the movies. I just saw the film Lincoln! I am trying to get a chance to visit things close by on short day trips. The University of Haifa gave me a tour of their campus and when I went to Jerusalem last week, I got there early enough to go to the Western Wall. I want to see more of Israel, but it is very hard during the season.
Q: Are you here to stay for the long-term and build a new winning tradition in Haifa?
It is definitely a place I can see myself being in for quite a number of years. I really enjoy Israel. I love Haifa, it’s a great place to live. I would love for it to be something where I could create some roots and be here for a while. When I took the job, Jeff and I thought about a two-year plan where I could get the team in good shape, and we have been able to complete that process quicker than anyone could have imagined. I would love to see if we could sustain it and become a truly elite team in the league.