Tribute to Hakoah

– Hi Mihai! Do you have a moment?

– Hi Erez! Of course, I have.

– Someone from the Jewish Community is asking me to recommend a coach for their team, and I think, if you want, it can bce a good experience for you to coach a Men’s Team.

– Sure Erez. I will do my best, and I will try not to let you down.

All you read was happening in February, as I was talking with “my treasure – the tiny giant” Erez Bitman by phone. After five minutes, I called the number indicated by Erez, wishing to find out more about this team. At the other end, it was David Hertig, that I found out he was in charge of the team management, but also he was one of the players. After a short conversation, we agreed to meet 20 minutes before the first practice to discuss other details.

Next week I started the job, and I met those beautiful people who didn’t stop fascinating me since then. A bunch of passionate guys who wanted to be led by someone who knows more about coaching – they are the Hakoah players.

My first practice it was a lite one, but I tried to keep a certain level of intensity, which pleased them a lot. I could hear after we finished whispering to each other: This is a real coach! That’s what we need! And so it started my journey with Hakoah.

Because they had only one practice and one game weekly, I tried to find a way to improve their game together and to do it quickly. In the beginning, my idea was to use a 4 out 1 in motion, with a shell defense and two types of defense for the Pick & Roll. Teaching the offense was going slowly, ansd the defense was not much better. Only the fast break game was a real and quick improvement.

Suddenly, starting with the third practice, it came very clear in my mind what I have to do. If it should be an improvement, it should be in the offense, and I should teach to play basketball and not only to rusn set plays. With this in my mind, I tailored a “read and react” offense, based on motion, cuts, backdoors, and a lot of Pick & Rolls, Pick & Pops.

Players reaction was incredible, since they absolutely loved it, and they embraced it with the learner hunger. The practices where two hours of super intensives drills and games, and above all very demanding for their brains, which in the end made them happy. I heard one time a player telling the others that after he goes home, half an hour he can’t think of anything, because it is so hard for his brain. But, still after those two hours, some players wanted to shoot by themselves a little bit more, and this for me ladies and gentlemen, is a signal that they enjoyed it, and evehn when they’re exhausted they wanted to extend the feeling of pleasure.

Until the end of the season, we haven’t lost any game, and usually, in the last quarter, the opponent team couldn’t keep the pace that we imposed. We managed to finish the Championship in the second place after we recovered the missing points from the first part of the season.

In two weeks from now, we will start our lives on separate roads, due to my move to Croatia. But, Hakoah and his players will have a massive place in my heart forever.

Maybe I succeeded to teach them a few things, but what they don’t know is that I learned much more from them. That’s why I feel immense gratitude for what they gave to me.

In this short period, they made me challenge myself and to discover how to teach the basketball that I only could imagine before. I felt the emotions of their great souls, people for what being number two it is not an option. Civilized they gave everything to be winners, for the whole two hours of practice, and the entire 40 minutes of the games.

I found people materially uninterested when it comes about basketball, and they were ready to do anything for their passion. They showed respect to me whenever we were together; they showed me sadness, but also understanding, when I told them, I am leaving in Croatia.

Above everything, they taught me that anyone can play basketball and that the level where you perform is not so important, as long as you give everything for it. The reward is the same: pure moments of happiness and joy.

I can’t finish without saying that I was honored and proud to be a part of your team, and I hope you also enjoyed our time together.

I wish you all to follow your passion with the same determination and to live your lives as happy as you are when you touch the basketball!


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