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Brad Greenberg coached an Israeli professional basketball team to a league title two years after resigning from Radford for violating NCAA rules.
Friday, June 14, 2013
JERUSALEM - When Maccabi Haifa won the Israeli national basketball championship Thursday night, the guy on the bench was none other than Brad Greenberg.
A year after finishing last in the league, Maccabi Haifa won its first Israeli championship in a stunning turnaround for the team and Greenberg. Haifa upset visiting Maccabi Tel Aviv 86-79, its first win against the pro 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 . He 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," Greenberg said by phone to the AP on 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 before advancing through the playoffs of the State Cup - Israel's second-most important basketball competition - and winning the final Thursday.
Haifa's success has sparked speculation that Greenberg will leave for the NBA, where once he was an assistant coach with the New York Knicks and Los Angeles Clippers, and a 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 on him in 2012. Any college wishing to hire him during that time could face NCAA sanctions of its own.
Greenberg said he was happy in Israel and open to building a long-term legacy at Haifa. He has emerged as a local hero there.
"We've awakened Haifa to basketball again, which is a wonderful feeling," Greenberg said. "This is much better for me than what I was doing. Much better."
Greenberg served as an assistant to his brother, then-Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg, before being hired by Radford in 2007.
The 59-year-old Greenberg led Radford to the 2009 Big South title and a spot in the NCAA tournament.
But his success at Radford turned into scandal.
Greenberg was suspended by RU for the final four games of the 2010-11 season after admitting he committed NCAA violations involving improper travel and related benefits for ineligible player Masse Doumbe. He resigned in May 2011.
In February 2012, the NCAA cited Radford for major rules violations and a cover-up. The NCAA sanctions included the loss of scholarships; two years of probation; the vacating of wins; the show-cause order on Greenberg; and the punishment of some of his former assistants.
"These violations were exacerbated by efforts of the men's basketball staff, led by the former head coach, to conceal some of the violations during the investigation," the NCAA report read.
The NCAA report was scathing in its descriptions of Greenberg's behavior. Instances of outright lies or evasions under questioning from investigators were cited. There were descriptions of the coaching of players in advance of their testimony to investigators.
"The head coach's actions in instructing a student-athlete to lie were inexcusable," the report said.
During an interview in Haifa with the AP before Thursday's league title game, Greenberg's remorse was limited. He said he regrets not cooperating with the NCAA.
"Yeah, I put a kid on a bus because I didn't want him by himself during the holiday when no one else was on campus," he said. "I mean, they were violations, but they're not the kind of violations I feel bad about committing now."
Greenberg served as an assistant to Eric Musselman on the Venezuelan national team during the summers of 2011 and 2012 as that squad participated in Olympic qualifying tournaments in an unsuccessful attempt to advance to the London Olympics.
Thanks to that job, he was hired to coach a pro team in Venezuela. He did that for the first six months of 2012.
But Greenberg, who is Jewish, had long considered coaching in Israel. He reached out to American multimillionaire Jeffrey Rosen, the owner of the Haifa team, about a move to Israel.
"I recall one night receiving his resume at dinner and my jaw dropped," Rosen wrote in an email.
The two men met last summer after the Venezuelan season wrapped up, and Greenberg was quickly hired.
"When I got here, there was an awful lot of skeptical media," Greenberg said. "The joke was, you know, 'He won't need the umbrella for the rainy season in Haifa, he'll be gone before then.' "
But Greenberg has lasted the full season - and justified the hype. His performance has generated widespread speculation that he will try to return to the NBA.
When Greenberg looks ahead, he does not see a future in college basketball. Coaching in Israel has been a far better personal and professional time than the grind of recruiting, long road trips and packed schedules inherent in the college game.
"We're playing Maccabi Tel Aviv for the State Cup championship ... and [Israeli President] Shimon Peres is shaking my hand before [a] game, versus going to a weekend doubleheader at Gardner-Webb and Presbyterian? I mean, give me a break," he said.
He will fly back to Virginia this month to marry his fiance, and then return to Israel to serve as head coach of the United States team at this summer's Maccabiah Games, a sort of Olympics for Jewish athletes from around the world.
Beyond that, there are only hints of where he'll be next year.
The Roanoke Times contributed to this report.
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