Coach of East Bay squad draws big 2013 assignment

Barry Kleiman, who is coaching the JCC of the East Bay boys basketball team in the Maccabi Games this summer, has an even bigger assignment next summer.

The El Cerrito resident has been selected to coach the USA junior boys basketball team for the 19th Maccabiah Games in Israel.

Held every four years in Israel, the Maccabiah Games are a huge, Olympics-style international sports competition for Jewish athletes of all ages from around the world. The games differ from the JCC Maccabi Games held every summer at several locations in the United States; those competitions are for teenagers.

Barry Kleiman (right) runs a practice drill.

Kleiman will have a bit of pressure on him in 2013, as the team he is coaching seeks to defend the title it won at the 18th Maccabiah Games in 2009 by beating Israel in the gold-medal game. Junior teams are composed of 15- and 16-year-olds.

Kleiman, 62, was selected to coach the USA team by Donna Orender, the chair of the junior boys team and president from 2005 to 2010 of the WNBA (the women’s professional basketball league in the United States). Kleiman and Orender first met at a summer camp when he was 19 and have had a close working relationship since, Kleiman said.

He said the Maccabiah Games next summer will mark his first time in Israel.

“It’s humbling to get the opportunity to do something like this because there is no shortage of great coaches who could do this,” Kleiman said.

Kleiman traces his roots as a basketball coach to a Jewish day school. In 1997, he began coaching basketball at El Cerrito’s Tehiyah Day School, where he helped launch the school sports program during the years his children went there.

He went on to become the assistant coach of the boys varsity team at Berkeley High School, head coach of the girls varsity squad at El Cerrito High School and an assistant coach for the boys varsity team at Monte Vista High School in Danville.

Kleiman has coached a handful of teams in Maccabi Games competitions — including the Contra Costa JCC squad the past three years — and is currently the coach for the JCC East Bay’s under-16 team that will be competing in Houston Aug. 5-10.

One of Kleiman’s biggest fans is 6-foot-10 Amit Tamir, who played collegiate basketball at Cal from 2001 to 2004 and has been a pro player in Europe and Israel since then.

Two summers ago, Kleiman conducted personal workout sessions in El Cerrito with Tamir, who was coming off a hand injury and was working on getting back in shape for the 2010-11 season of Israeli basketball.

“Our workouts were very detailed oriented,” Tamir said by email from Israel. “Barry was a perfectionist with me, and [that] is what I wanted.” He said the two of them focused on footwork and skills that would help Tamir create more scoring options.

“[Kleiman] is a big believer in teamwork and mutual respect,” Tamir added. “We had great conversations about basketball and life, and I learned a lot from him.”

Kleiman said his coaching techniques are simple and to the point.

“I don’t yell at the kids,” he said, “but I urge them very strongly.

“I’m a stickler for fundamentals. As simple as it seems, you’ve got to be able to catch and pass the basketball and know how to defend,” Kleiman added.

Tryouts for the junior boys team (for players born in 1997 and 1998) are scheduled for Oct. 13-14 in Philadelphia and Oct. 20-21 at College of the Canyons in Valencia, near Magic Mountain. Kleiman said he was told that the tryouts in Philadelphia could attract as many 100 hopefuls, with possibly another 50 or so in Valencia. For more information on tryouts, email Kleiman at [email protected] or visit and click on the 19th Maccabiah Games link.