Written by Noam Watt
The Maccabi USA U18 Boys Basketball team will play for a gold medal on Sunday night against Israel. A major component of their success is their coaching staff, led by Head Coach Matthew Malc, Coach Amar’e Stoudemire, and Assistant Coach Matt Elkin. The staff recruited a talented roster that rolled through group play and beat Australia by 43 points in the semifinals on Thursday.
Elkin’s basketball career has taken him on a long and windy path to Israel. He’s worked in all corners of the United States, in high school and college basketball, as a manager and coach, and now as the Director of Basketball Operations at Yale.
This July, he’s back on the sidelines, coaching in a country far from his home in Connecticut.
“Representing our country in Israel is a dream come true for me. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity,” said Elkin, who is in Israel for the fourth time.
Elkin began playing basketball as a six-year-old. He played on travel teams and local teams through his high school years. Then the focus turned to coaching.
He was a student manager at Wisconsin when they made the Sweet Sixteen in 2012, and continued as a student assistant at Division III Edgewood College. He got his graduate degree in Sports Leadership at Northeastern while serving as the graduate manager from 2014-2016.
He circled the high school circuits until 2020 when he joined the staff at Yale. This past season, the Bulldogs traveled to Auburn to play Bruce Pearl’s squad.
Pearl, the Head Coach of the 2009 Maccabi USA Open Basketball Team, is also Jewish. He and Elkin are part of a contingent of Jewish coaches in college basketball. Other members of that group are Todd Golden of Florida, Josh Pastner of Georgia Tech, Michael Schwartz of East Carolina and Lindsay Gottlieb of USC.
Elkin is also involved with the Jewish Coaches Association, which brings together the aforementioned coaches for a yearly breakfast at the Final Four.
During 2020 when the NCAA Tournament was canceled due to COVID-19, Elkin pivoted and held the breakfast on Zoom. That’s where he found out about the opportunity to coach the U18 team in the Maccabiah.
U18 Head Coach Matthew Malc attended the virtual breakfast. Malc, who is a coach at Hillel Yeshiva in New Jersey during the year, mentioned there was an opening to be an assistant coach for the U18 team this summer in Israel. Elkin jumped at the opportunity and applied. “I went through some interviews and they ended up choosing me,” said Elkin. “The rest was history.”
Now Elkin and Malc certainly aren’t the most famous coaches on the bench this summer. That would be Amir’s Stoudemire. a 6-time all-star and the NBA Rookie of Year in 2003, Stoudemire converted to Judaism and now practices as an Orthodox Jew. He played in Jerusalem after his NBA career ended in 2016.
Elkin said the team was in shock when they learned Stoudemire would be one of their coaches this summer. Now, they’re comfortable with him, learning from one of the best big men in recent decades in the NBA. “He’s a busy guy and he doesn’t need to help us,” Elkin said of Stoudemire. “But he’s taking time out of his schedule to give back to our players. They’re extremely appreciative of him.”
The players aren’t the only ones learning from Stoudemire. Elkin said that getting to pick his brain and get some of the knowledge he has will be something to “take with me for the rest of my coaching career as well.”
Elkin, Stoudemire and Malc have coached a dominant team thus far in the Maccabiah. On Sunday, they have the opportunity to go out on top in the Gold Medal Game vs. Israel. Tip off is at 8:30 PM inside Romema Hall in Haifa.