Barry Kleiman with wife and team manager Marcie
— by Amir Shoam
When Barry Kleiman, coach of the Under-16 basketball team for the Maccabiah, was 19, he worked as a counselor at a sleepover camp in the Philadelphia area. One day after lunch, when he and the other counselors were playing basketball, a 12-year-old girl named Donna asked them to teach her how to play. She kept playing with them every day during the camp, and in the next two summers, in which she also attended the camp. The two had not seen each other for the next 30 years. When a camp reunion meeting, which Kleiman could not attend as he was living in California, was approaching, he asked his close friend, who also worked in the camp as a counselor, to look for Donna.
It turned out that since the camp Donna had represented Queens College in the All-America women’s basketball team, was selected to the all-star game of the Women’s Pro Basketball League, represented the U.S. in the 1985 Maccabiah Games, and became the PGA Tour’s senior vice president of strategic development. Later, Donna Orender became the president of the WNBA.
More after the jump.
The two have become friends again, and afterwards met again on the basketball court in the 2011 JCC Maccabi Games in Springfield, MA, as Orender’s twin sons participated in the basketball tournament. One year later, Orender, also one of Maccabi USA’s vice presidents, recommended Kleiman for his current position. “I feel honored about that,” said Kleiman, “I know there were other people who were qualified for this job, but I got it because Donna knew me as a coach and as a person and was sure about me. This story shows the importance of creating and maintaining relationships.”
This principal has also led Kleiman in selecting the squad for the coming tournament: “I wanted to pick not only good basketball players, but also people that I wanted to spend four weeks in Israel with,” he said.
Before the trials, I asked each player to write a letter about their motivation and expectations regarding the tournament. I wanted people who would listen, play strong, and know how to work with people they had not known before. I enjoy improving those aspects in players during a season, but it is not something that you can do in one week of training before a tournament.
Among the chosen players are four from the Lower Merion High School: Corey Sherman of the school’s first team, and Michael Berg, Jeremy Horn and Eli Needle of the freshmen team. An interesting coincidence considering that unlike other coaches, Kleiman did not pick players who had already known each other on purpose.
“I was awed to hear that four kids from one high school made it to a national team,” said Berg.
It is not very often that I can experience something as big as that with people I literally see every day in classes. I have always wanted to visit Israel, and the fact that I get to do something that I really like while I am there makes it a great honor. The players who made it from the tryouts were all very good, and I expected them to make it. I also remember a couple of twins from Florida [Orender’s sons, Jacob and Zach], as well as a tall guard from Illinois [Jordan Baum].
“I was quite nervous about the trials,” admits the 15-year-old forward.
I do not consider myself a good tryout player because I am not a “flashy.” Additionally, I am a perfectionist, so whenever I did something wrong, I would think about it for a long period of time during the tryout. I respect Coach Kleiman very much for seeing my value as a player.
“Winning the gold is the goal for me, and I am sure that most of my teammates feel the same,” continues Berg. “The whole experience is special, but we go there to win and represent the U.S. the way we should.”
Based on the east coast tryout sessions and Coach Kleiman’s words, we don’t have too much size. I expect us to be a quick-running and sharp-shooting team. We should not expect anything less than winning.
“I try to ignore any expectations,” concludes Kleiman. “In the last tournament the U.S. won the gold, but due to the age restriction those are not the same players this time. I try not to manage aspirations, but reality: to be as good as this team can. I expect the players not just to try to score, but to do everything yachad — together, so that this tournament will become a great memory.”
U.S. Under-16 basketball team for the Maccabiah: