"Before I start talking about basketball, I want to thank this great support of our fans, all the fans who came here and flew from Tel Aviv and over Europe to come here and watch the game."
With those words Coach Ioannis Sfairopoulos opened his press conference on Thursday night at Mercedes-Benz Arena in the German capital where more than 1,000 Maccabi fans cheered on their heroes in an 89-95 victory over ALBA Berlin.
There were many things Sfairopoulos could have opened with. The victory was his 100th as a coach in the EuroLeague and his 25th with Maccabi. Swingman Elijah Bryant broke out with 19 points on 5-of-6 three-point shooting for a career-best performance index rating of 29. Center Jalen Reynolds delivered 17 points and 7 rebounds in his second game with the club. Point guard Nate Wolters returned after missing five games with an injury.
However, Sfairopoulos correctly recognized that there is nothing to play for if not the Devotion displayed by Maccabi's famous fans. So first he thanks them:
"We are very proud that we have this crowd close to us and we're very happy that we gave them this win tonight to reward them for all the support they give to us," Sfairopoulos continued. "I don't know how many clubs can bring in the regular-season of the EuroLeague 1,500 fans to an away game."
Despite a rash of injuries that have left only three players to appear in all 18 EuroLeague games to date, Sfairopoulos has Maccabi flying high in fourth place. And after talking about the fans, he discussed his team's performance in Berlin. But when he finished his media obligations, he went out again to thank the other stars of the night, the Maccabi fans.
Eventually, the coach and his charges changed and went back to the hotel, but they would not get much sleep. The Maccabi faithful were there waiting, singing and dancing in celebration of the Israeli champs' fourth road win of the season.
If the 1,000-plus fans in Berlin can fire up Maccabi and Sfairopoulos, one can only imagine the atmosphere on Thursday nights at Menorah Mivtachim Arena! Maccabi has not reached the playoffs since 2015. Will Sfairopoulos be the man to end that drought? Well, Maccabi is 8-0 at home this season and will play four of its next five games in front of its fans. Thanks to the Maccabi fans’ support in road wins like these and at every home game in Tel Aviv, Maccabi could not just make the playoffs, but find itself battling for home-court advantage!