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November , 2017
Friday

Sunday October 11th, 2009 Temple Concord There are many fans in central New York of basketball both ...
April 5, 2012 NEW ORLEANS, La. - Emmanuel College Head Women's Basketball Coach Andy Yosinoff received the ...
The 18th World Maccabiah Games were held this past July in Netanya, Israel. The games ...
The four  finalists for the 2017 Red Auerbach College Coach of the Year Award were ...
via BallinEurope.com America’s National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame has announced its inductees for 2011, well ...
University of Hawai'i men's basketball head coach Eran Ganot was the recipient of the 2016 ...
The Jewish Coaches Association (JCA) will host its annual meeting at Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, ...
Coach Scott Garson of The College of Idaho was named the 2015 Red Auerbach Coach ...
The Jewish Coaches Association (JCA) will host its annual meeting at the Georgia World Congress ...
Yanni Hufnagel, the Crimson’s assistant coach, is one of the most promising recruiters in the sport By Ben ...

Archive for January, 2013

Jewish College Cage Coaches Net Early-Season Success

Posted by admin On January - 20 - 2013 Comments Off

Now that college basketball teams are into their conference schedules, vying for berths in March Madness, it’s time to check in on three Jewish head coaches with local ties. After last weekend, all three are off to very good starts.

Les Levine | Friday, January 18, 2013 via Cleveland Jewish News

• Cleveland Heights High School grad Larry Shyatt, in his second stint at the University of Wyoming in Laramie, in the Mountain West Conference, is off to a 14-1 start, losing to Boise State last week after reeling off 13 wins in a row. Of the 14 wins, 11 are of the double-digit variety. One of the starters is sophomore Larry Nance Jr., who played high school ball at Revere, near Akron, averaging 10.6 points and seven rebounds a game. Shyatt and Larry Nance Sr. forged a relationship when Shyatt was the head coach for five years at Clemson, Nance’s alma mater.

Shyatt, 61, was an assistant coach at Florida under Billy Donovan, when the Gators won back-to-back national championships from 2005 to 2007. Other stops along the way were at Akron, Utah, Cleveland State, New Mexico, and Providence. Prior to his stint at Clemson, Shyatt spent one year at Wyoming as head coach in the 1997-98 season. Part of the reason he went back last season is that he didn’t feel right leaving the way he did the first time. Shyatt’s son, Jeremy, is the lead assistant at Wyoming.

• Keith Dambrot is now in his ninth year as head coach at Akron, and through last weekend, was off to an 11-4 start. After winning 19 games in his first year, he reached the 20-win mark in each of the next seven years. He has led Akron to two NCAA Tournament appearances as well as three trips to the National Invitation Tournament.

Prior to coming back to his hometown of Akron, Dambrot had head coaching jobs at Ashland and Central Michigan. While “exiled” from the college game, he returned to Akron and took a job as a stockbroker. While coaching teams at the Akron JCC, he helped LeBron James in his developmental years, and wound up coaching James at Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary, leading to two state championships. He has signed an extension that will keep him around for quite some time.

• Rob Senderoff is in his second year at Kent State and led the Golden Flashes to a 21-12 record last year. After last weekend, Kent State is off to a 10-6 start. Both Akron and Kent State own relatively easy wins over Cleveland State this season. Kent State has been quite successful in recent years on the basketball court, and several coaches have used it as a steppingstone to perceived better jobs. Gary Waters, now at Cleveland State, led the Flashes to two NCAA Tournaments, while Stan Heath and Jim Christian took them there a combined three more times.

Kent State has had a phenomenal run in other sports. It almost always has top-ranked golf teams, under coach Herb Page. But last year, the baseball team had a great run in the College World Series, and the football team went to a bowl game for the first time in 40 years. That team featured Pro Football Hall of Famer Jack Lambert, a member of four Super Bowl-winning Pittsburgh teams, current Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel and a little-known defensive back by the name of Nick Saban. Saban has won four national championships, one at LSU and three at Alabama. The placekicker on that team was the aforementioned Page.

Harvard Basketball’s Whiz Kid

Posted by admin On January - 20 - 2013 Comments Off

Yanni Hufnagel, the Crimson’s assistant coach, is one of the most promising recruiters in the sport

By Ben Z. Cohen|January 17, 2013 7:00 AM via Tablet

In most ways, 30-year-old Yanni Hufnagel is the paradigmatic nice Jewish boy. He grew up in Scarsdale, for starters. He was cut from the varsity basketball team in high school. He graduated from Cornell. And now he’s living in Boston with a job that is very likely to make him quite rich before long.

But Hufnagel isn’t a doctor or lawyer or a banker. He’s an assistant basketball coach at Harvard. And the Crimson’s wild success in Hufnagel’s four seasons on the bench—Harvard won the Ivy League last year for the first time ever and produced a couch-surfing basketball phenom named Jeremy Lin—has turned Hufnagel into one of the hottest young coaches in the country.

In the NBA, the closest thing to a Jewish-American player these days is Amar’e Stoudemire. But you don’t need to be tall or all that athletic to coach college basketball, which explains how the Jewish Coaches Association counts about 30 Division-I coaches among its ranks. Few are as promising as Hufnagel and University of Memphis Coach Josh Pastner, another curly-haired member of the tribe, and the two will meet Saturday in one of the most fascinating (and only) Jewish coaching showdowns since the days of Red Auerbach and Red Holzman. In a 2011 CBS Sports survey of more than 100 coaches, Hufnagel was voted the the assistant coach from a mid-major school who “will make it big-time due to his recruiting ability” and Pastner the “most relentless recruiter in college basketball.” So, maybe the highest praise for Hufnagel comes from Pastner himself: “Yanni’s a better recruiter than I am,” Pastner told me.

One night last week, Hufnagel and I met for dinner in Boston so he could explain how he ended up wearing sweatpants to work most days. As a kid, he said after ordering mushroom-and-lobster pizza, Hufnagel fiddled with figurines of basketball players under his comforter and read coaching books until the pages were frayed. Hufnagel’s best sport was lacrosse—he played for a season at Penn State before quitting and transferring—but he wasn’t good enough as a basketball player to make Scarsdale’s high-school team. “I can make a shot,” he said to describe his game, “like all Jewish guys.”

So, he did what other Jewish guys do: He called games for his town’s public-access television station. Hufnagel even pretended he was the commentator Bill Raftery by shouting “onions!” after Scarsdale’s big shots. “He was so far ahead for someone our age in terms of analyzing basketball,” said his broadcast partner Ed Cohen, now the radio voice for the Rutgers women’s basketball team. “You knew he’d be either doing this for a living or he’d be a coach one day.”

In his first year at Cornell, Hufnagel spent one season as a basketball manager, and he scored a summer and fall internship with the New Jersey Nets, where his duties included laundry pickup. But his big break came right after graduation when his Nets colleague Ryan Krueger, now an assistant coach at Lehigh, connected him with his old boss, Oklahoma basketball Coach Jeff Capel, who was looking for a graduate assistant. Capel flew Hufnagel out for an interview and offered him the position while driving him back to the airport. “He was just a ball of energy,” Capel said. Hufnagel’s time in Norman, Okla., overlapped with the two years of Oklahoma star Blake Griffin, the future No. 1 NBA draft pick, and the aspiring coach made himself invaluable to Griffin by opening the gym in the morning and rebounding late at night. “He’s probably the most genuine, hardworking guy I’ve ever been around in basketball,” said Taylor Griffin, Blake’s brother and Oklahoma teammate. “Anything we needed, he was there to provide that.”

Hufnagel moved again in 2009 when Capel recommended him to Harvard head Coach Tommy Amaker. This time, the job was as a volunteer assistant coach. His official starting salary was the same as an unpaid intern’s, and Harvard has graduated more U.S. presidents than NBA players. But Hufnagel was so nervous during his interview that he sweated through his suit. “People looked at me like I had four eyes when I said I wanted to go to Harvard,” he said. He got the job and hit the road recruiting as soon as possible.

To be an assistant coach in college basketball is to be a recruiter, someone who can schmooze with coaches, is fluent in high-school text messaging, and doesn’t mind spending entire summer days in a sticky gym. All it took was one meal with Hufnagel to figure out why he’s such a good one. If the check had come with a Harvard application, I would’ve committed at the table, assuming in this alternate world I also had a higher SAT score, a 10-inch growth spurt, and the ability to play pickup basketball without needing a day spa to recover. Capel, now an assistant coach at Duke, said there are two things about Hufnagel that make him one of the best recruiters in the game. The first is his chutzpah. “There are sometimes kids you don’t recruit because you automatically assume they won’t have any interest,” Capel said. “Yanni doesn’t think that way. He’s not afraid to hear no.” The second, is that “he’s a great salesman,” Capel said. ESPN analyst Seth Greenberg put it this way: “It’s hard not to like Yanni Hufnagel.”

Hufnagel does have Harvard to sell, but that’s not always a slam dunk with blue-chip recruits. As a member of the Ivy League, Harvard doesn’t offer athletic scholarships, and its stringent admissions requirements add a degree of difficulty to any recruiting coup. Meanwhile, Hufnagel says his goal is to chase high-schoolers who want to be first-round NBA draft picks, most of whom would’ve never considered a four-year detour through Cambridge. And yet he recently helped Harvard sign Zena Edosomwan, a 6-foot-9 recruit ranked as a top-100 player in his class by Scout.com, which is like Yale snagging a Kennedy.

If he wants, Hufnagel soon will have his choice of jobs, either as a head coach or an assistant at a traditional powerhouse with boatloads of basketball resources. His experience under Amaker, plus Harvard’s 79-24 record in his four seasons there, beef up his credentials. He’s just the right age, too. Butler’s Brad Stevens and Virginia Commonwealth’s Shaka Smart were hired at 30 and 31, respectively, and both have coached in the NCAA tournament’s Final Four. Pastner, who got his job at 31, also considered Hufnagel when he was hiring an assistant coach last year. “He could coach anywhere,” Greenberg said.

Where Hufnagel will coach this summer is Israel. For two weeks in July, the busiest month on college basketball’s recruiting calendar, Hufnagel will lead Maccabi USA’s youth team during the Maccabiah Games. It will be his first time as a head coach at any level of basketball. His group of players is definitely not a Dream Team, but last week, still six months out, Hufnagel was already pitching it hard. “I think I’ve got the best Jewish kids in the country who are under the age of 18,” he said.

At that point, as the restaurant was clearing out, Hufnagel checked his iPhone. I had never before seen someone’s jaw drop, but his jaw dropped. “Oh, wow,” he said. Hufnagel had just received a text message from Lin, now the Houston Rockets guard. Lin was in town for a matchup with the Boston Celtics the next night and actually had visited Harvard’s practice that day. Now one of the most marketable basketball players on the planet—or, as Hufnagel calls him, “J”—wanted to know if Hufnagel would like tickets to that game. By the time he told me all this, Hufnagel was already done typing back. “Absolutely,” he said.

The NBA’s Jewish Playmaker

Posted by admin On January - 16 - 2013 Comments Off

Via Tablet.com

By Jordan Teicher|January 8, 2013 7:00 AM|

A nylon curtain splits the gymnasium along the half-court line at the YM-YWHA of Union County, N.J. Fathers and sons wearing yarmulkes walk to the far side of the court, basketballs tucked under their elbows, ready for a light shoot-around. On the other side, Coach Sandy Pyonin is deep into a five-hour workout with Tyler Roberson, a 6’8″ senior power forward at Roselle Catholic High School, and the 27th-best basketball recruit in America for the Class of 2013, according to ESPN.

Roberson, his shirt soaked with sweat, finishes off a dribbling drill with a powerful one-handed dunk—one of those plays that only truly gifted athletes can complete, where gravity slows down for an extra tick. Nevertheless, the dribbling is sloppy. Pyonin steps onto the court, with his arms folded: “I don’t need the dunks or all that other garbage,” he explains matter-of-factly. Without a word, Roberson jogs back to the top of the key to repeat the drill. This time, he doesn’t dunk.

Roberson is Pyonin’s prized prospect. They’ve been training together for four years, and they make an odd couple. Sandy is short, blond, white, talkative, and Jewish; Roberson is tall, black, quiet, and goes to a Catholic school.

It’s Nov. 23, and late fall is the calm before the storm of the high-school basketball calendar, a short period before tryouts when players typically rest their bodies to prepare for the grueling early-morning practices to come. Roberson, however, is spending most of his time at the Y with Pyonin. Once the season starts, Roberson, who recently committed to Syracuse University after fielding offers from Kansas and Villanova, will go back to Roselle Catholic and Pyonin will return to Golda Och Academy, the private Conservative Jewish day school where he teaches phys. ed. and runs the basketball program. Sandy may train Roberson on off days, but their regular workouts won’t resume until March.

Like other top high-school coaches, Pyonin has racked up impressive career achievements in his 40 years as a coach, including three National Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) Championships, two New Jersey Prep B State Championships, two International Maccabiah Gold Medals, more than 2,300 AAU victories, and more than 570 varsity wins at Golda Och Academy.

But with Pyonin, legacy comes down to one number: 34. That’s the number of his players who have made it to the NBA.

It’s one of the most accomplished high-school coaching résumés of all time. And yet outside of the AAU basketball community, Pyonin is virtually unknown. He doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page. What this coach from a small yeshiva does have, though, is a legion of fans in some of the best basketball players to emerge from New Jersey in the last 40 years.

“Anything I could do for Sandy, it’s not enough,” Edgar Jones, Pyonin’s first prospect to make the NBA in 1980, told me. “He’s touched so many lives, not just the ballplayers, but the people around the ballplayers, the families of the ballplayers.”

***

Pyonin grew up in Elizabeth, N.J., during the ’60s and ’70s in a Conservative Jewish household. He was always athletic and went on to play soccer and lacrosse at Kean University, but basketball was the sport he focused on the most, regardless of his aptitude. “When I was in 6th grade,” he recalls, “I got kicked out of the gym, because I couldn’t really reach the basket. The coach told me to play baseball.”

His coaching origin is Jordanesque, a story built on obsessive hard work meant to prove people wrong. After getting cut from his high-school team in his sophomore and junior years, Sandy trained harder, practicing 10 hours a day on a backyard hoop, studying games on television. He served as player-coach on teams with his friends and taught the game to himself until he received coaching offers at age 19.

“I had better knowledge of the game than the NBA coaches, in my perspective,” he told me. “They didn’t know how to screen around the foul line, they didn’t know how to screen on the jump ball … they still don’t know how to do that in the NBA today, to get that extra inch. I guess they don’t think it’s that important.”

When you watch Pyonin coach his players on a basketball court, you realize everything is important. Every inch, every dribble, every movement has a purpose. And with the proper guidance, every player can improve.

My father was one of those players, a 12-year-old shooting at the Y in 1968, when they met. Pyonin was just out of high school, getting serious about coaching. “I’d never spoken to him before,” my father remembered. “He just came up to me and asked, ‘Do you want to become better?’ ”

Sandy and Kyrie Irving

Their relationship continued as Sandy began developing his philosophy with the YMHA Roadrunners, a squad of Jewish high-schoolers who played on weekends in the early 1970s. “Sandy stressed the conditioning. He always wanted you to play hard, to play smart, and play as a team. If guys didn’t focus, they had to run laps.”

Forty years later, Pyonin maintains excellence with the same gritty philosophy even as basketball has evolved into a sport full of flashy highlights. His approach has paid off: Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers point guard and 2011 NBA Rookie of the Year, trained with Sandy for four years. Orlando Magic forward Al Harrington, a 14-year NBA veteran, spent his high-school summers with Sandy. Utah Jazz guard Randy Foye started with Sandy as a 7th grader, and Sandy still calls him after every game. Remarkably, none of Pyonin’s elite players were charged for the years of training sessions and mentoring. “I never charge any player who can’t afford it. I believe in the Robin Hood philosophy—steal from the rich and give to the poor.”

“Without Sandy in my life and without Sandy helping me through college, through high school … I wouldn’t be here now,” Randy Foye has said. “After every game I play in the NBA, no matter if I have 30 points or if I have five points, Sandy’s calling. And he’s saying … ‘I just want you to know that I love the way you played D, I loved the way you passed.’ ”

The Chicago Bears Hire a Jewish Coach

Posted by admin On January - 16 - 2013 Comments Off

From Tablet.com

By Jason Diamond|January 16, 2013 12:26 PM

When the Chicago Bears announced their decision to fire their coach of nine seasons, Lovie Smith, on Dec. 31, my friends and I started a new email chain about our beloved Bears discussing who would be Smith’s successor. Names like former Super Bowl-winning coach Bill Cowher and Denver coordinator Mike McCoy came up, but it was all speculation in the days after the announcement of Smith’s firing.

About two weeks later, one of my friends started a new chain: “A Jewish coach?” I opened the email to find a link that casually mentioned the Bears were in talks with Marc Trestman, head coach of the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League, sandwiched in the middle of about eight other possible candidates. Those of us Jews included in the email balked at the idea of the Bears adding one of our own to their list of coaches, let alone a Jewish coach from the laughable CFL. So, it came as something as a double shock this morning when I read that the Bears have indeed hired a Jewish coach whose greatest success has been coaching in the Great White North. “I guess it was either the Jew or the guy named Arians,” one friend emailed in reference to one of the other finalists for the job, Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians.

What will Trestman bring to the franchise? The Bears are hoping that the coach will help be the spark that finally ignites the offense, manned by quarterback Jay Cutler, that has had difficulty firing over the last few seasons. Chicago, traditionally one of the best defensive teams in football for decades, has shifted their focus to the offense, with mostly tepid results. Trestman, a graduate of the same Saint Louis Park High School in Minnesota that Al Franken, Thomas Friedman, and the Coen Brothers all attended, is a quarterback’s coach. Besides being the only CFL coach to win back-to-back league championships, Trestman has worked to help develop NFL quarterbacks Bernie Kosar, Steve Young, Scott Mitchell, Jake Plummer and Rich Gannon as a quarterback coach for various teams. Trestman is also one of the most sought after coaches for top-ranked college quarterbacks preparing for their Pro Day and the NFL Combine.

Trestman’s hiring comes just under a year-and-a-half after another of Chicago’s iconic franchises, the Cubs, hired former Boston Red Sox General Manager, Theo Epstein. The Cubbies hoped Epstein would do for the Cubs what he did for his former team: lift a supposed curse that has doomed the Cubs from winning a World Series since 1908. The Bears, who haven’t won a Super Bowl title since 1985, are now the second Chicago team in under two years to hedge their bets on a Jewish guy to help lead their team to victory.

There is one interesting note to point out: Sid Luckman, the great quarterback who helped revolutionize the modern passing game in the 1940s, played for the Chicago Bears. With Luckman running the offense, the Monsters of the Midway won four NFL championships. So maybe there’s something to be said about the Bears needing a Jew to have a successful quarterback? Maybe this Jewish gamble will be the one to help bring my Bears back to glory.

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