JERUSALEM – A year after finishing last in the league, Maccabi Haifa won its first Israeli basketball championship in a stunning turnaround for the team and coach Brad Greenberg.
Haifa upset Maccabi Tel Aviv 86-79 on Thursday night, its first win against the league's perennial powerhouse in six meetings this season.
Two years ago, Greenberg was forced out of college basketball for violating NCAA rules at Radford University, and spent a year coaching in Venezuela before taking over at Haifa this season.
"This is the greatest achievement I've had as a head coach, without a doubt," said Greenberg by phone early Friday.
During the 2011-12 season, Haifa finished last among the 11 teams in the league, prompting the coaching change that brought Greenberg to Israel.
This year, the team finished second in the regular season and advanced to the final of the State Cup, Israel's second-most important basketball competition. Then Thursday night, Haifa won the league championship for the first time in team history.
Former St. Joseph's (Pa.) standout Pat Calathes led Haifa with 22 points and 10 rebounds. League MVP Gal Mekel had 21 points and seven assists.
Haifa's success has sparked speculation that Greenberg will leave for the NBA, where he was a longtime assistant coach with the New York Knicks and Los Angeles Clippers and general manager for the Philadelphia 76ers.
He'd have a harder time getting a job in the college ranks after the NCAA imposed a five-year show-cause order in 2012 for providing impermissible travel and team benefits to an ineligible player and aiding in the cover-up.
Greenberg said he was happy in Israel and open to building a long-term legacy at Haifa.