This Monday has been held the opening press conference of the Maccabi Tel-Aviv 2007-2008 season. The Israeli powerhouse is considered as one of the big favorites every year for reaching the Euroleague Final Four. And it was also the first big press conference for the new headcoach of Maccabi, the 1974 born Oded Katash.
Oded Katash started to play basketball for Maccabi Tel Aviv at the age of 9 years when he joined the youth section of the prestigious club. He stayed with the Junior teams until he was 17 when he started playing with different smaller teams in Israel to get some playing time on the professional level. In 1996, at the age of 22, Katash came back to Maccabi to start playing his first Euroleague season. Unfortunately, it was the injury, nearly the same that Katash suffered from years later, of the starting PG Guy Gudes that gave the opportunity to the young man to play some important minutes. In his first appearance, he led the team that was under shock because of the dramatic injury of their starter to a crucial win versus Pau-Orthez in France.
Katash was also supposed to become the first Israeli born player in the NBA. As the excellent portrait of Katash on 24sec.net reveals, it was more by luck that the administrative manager of the New York Knicks, Ed Tapscot, saw the guard in 1995. For most of the observers, this sounded like a joke, as the statement has been made on the 1st of April. But after a fantastic Eurobasket 1997, the Knicks made an offer to Katash in 1998 to sign with them for the upcoming season. The best Jewish player in the Big Apple, what a great combination. But the NBA lock-out in the summer of 1998 made the bubble pop. And Katash decided to stay in Europe.
However, his unique team had already signed another PG, and so Katash decided to go playing with Panathinaikos. This was his most prolific period in terms of titles. He won finally in 2000 the Euroleague with the Greens beating his home town team Maccabi in the Final and stating that this”is the happiest day of my career, and also the saddest one”. In the summer after the glorious hours, Katash injured his knee and was sidelined 4 years with the hope of a comeback, but announced desperately the end of his playing career in June 2004.
After a first coaching experience with Hapoel Galil Elyon, Katash is now the new headcoach of Maccabi Tel Aviv, his home team, but also the great pride of Israeli basketball. The team has one of the most devoted and best fan communities in the World. And the atmosphere in the historically loaded Yad Eliyahu “Nokia Arena” is known for being one of the best in European basketball.
During the Press conference on Monday, Katash presented his new team officially and explained how difficult it is for the “Yellows” to sign quality players. All the big money assembled by some Spanish, Greek or Russian teams to sign big names implicated a change in the recruitment process for the Israeli. They had to go for earlier signings in order to get the wanted players under contract before other more potential teams could sign them.
And as every story has a happy ending, Katash will go to the United States with his team this week and play against the New York Knicks one day after his 33rd birthday this Thursday. Even if he never could wear a Knick uniform, Katash certainly wants to take a late revenge for the NBA lockout that prevented him for putting his marks in the North American league. I really would want to know how many of the actual Knicks fans or players will remember that the coach of the team they play on the 11th October in their pre-season schedule could have been a roster addition for their preferred team nearly 10 years ago? Spike Lee, if you knew that, just give me a ring and confirm it to me 🙂
And for those who never could see him play and also for all the other fans of Oded, here is a beautiful clip of some of his best plays with the Maccabi Tel Aviv uniform.