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Hapoel Jerusalem misses the net

by Frankie February 06 2008

In 2004, Hapoel Jerusalem was seen as one of the next promising basketball powers in Europe. The club upset mighty Real Madrid to win its first-ever European crown, the ULEB Cup, and seemed poised to challenge perennial Israeli champion Maccabi Tel Aviv on the domestic scene as well. And when a bit over a year later, Israel's newest savior Arkadi Gaydamak became the club’s chief sponsor and honorary president; the future appeared brighter than ever.


But over the next four years, the club’s bumbling management has failed to capitalize on its newfound money, strong reputation and great fan base to in fact become a true powerhouse. Inconsistent decisions regarding players and the coaching staff, failure to get the Jerusalem municipality to put the team’s new arena project in high gear and poor handling of the media and other basketball professionals are among the reasons that Hapoel is now no more than average team that top players have no interest in playing for despite Gaydamak’s deep pockets.


The analysis of where it went wrong could be a book, with chapters on the problems between team chairman Danny Klein and Gaydamak, the team’s trigger-happy approach to firing coaches, and naïve negotiating skills all being quite full. But you needn’t have witnessed it all to realize what a joke this club has become.


American Anthony Roberson, who spent the last two months with Hapoel, let loose on the club in an interview with Walla! Sports.


During his brief stay, Roberson was fined $50,000 for allegedly being in the room with another player who partied with a prostitute, seen that player, Marcus Slaughter cut from the team and then watched most of the games from the bench as players with less impressive pedigrees but better relationships with the coaching staff played more.



“Hapoel Jerusalem always compares itself to Maccabi Tel Aviv. It wants to be like Maccabi. But that’s a joke. Jerusalem will never be like Maccabi, which is such a professional club. It’s a different level. It’s not about money, but about how things are run. In Jerusalem, for example, they don’t understand that you can’t just cut three players in a half-season. It’s crazy. Someone needs to take responsibility. To try to do something so that the players will succeed. I’m not talking about just myself, but also Slaughter and Will Blaylock. If I ever come back to Israel, it would only be to Maccabi Tel Aviv. I came to the wrong team in Israel. I suffered a lot during my time here. Unnecessary suffering. Jerusalem will suffer too. It will get what it deserves. Maybe not now, but in the near future. It won’t get to the top this way and it knows that."


It’s amazing how much Roberson could observe in such a short time here. And there’s no doubt that his words will travel throughout the professional basketball community causing agents and players to question whether it’s worth working with the team anytime soon. With the word out, the question becomes, when will the Hapoel Jerusalem management wake up, realize that it’s quickly becoming a joke and do something before years of hard work go down the drain.

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