Making it to the Final Four made Coach Zvi Sherf untouched in a way. His team has already collected seven losses in the Israeli league (eight including the shocking cup finals loss), but his status is stable. He is making some decisions that most people can’t easily digest, like benching Vujcic and Sharp for 40 minutes, but he hasn’t suffered any hits from media or fans. Yet.
There’s no doubt Montepaschi are coming into the game in better shape, and even when both teams in good shape it’s acceptable to say the Italians are a better team, and play better basketball but…this is Final Four, and in Final Fours there’s another factor: Experience. And it talks loud and clear.
The biggest difference in experience is on the benches. Montepaschi’s head was in two final fours as the assistant, but didn’t complete yet two seasons as a head coach. Sherf? He was an assistant when Maccabi won their second Euroleague title in 1981 and head-coached legends like Berkowitz, Aroesti, Jamchy and McGee. His first Final Four was in 1989 and he’s one of the longest-term coaches in Europe.
Experience will talk on the floor as well; that is, if Sherf has Vujcic, Sharp and Burstein, something he doesn’t seem to often have lately. The addition of Burstein to a team that made it to the Final Four without him was supposed to give Maccabi added value, but he so far hasn’t found his place in the team.
If this trio doesn’t get a lot of minutes, Maccabi has their tradition: This will be the team’s 10th Final Four, more than any other team in Euroleague history (Barcelona ranks 2nd with nine). After that…the players will talk, too.