By Brian Bateman
With a clipboard in hand, then-20-year-old David Zimmerman was barely older than the players in his Maccabi coaching debut.
He was so young that Maccabi instituted a rule the following year, requiring coaches to be at least 21.
Zimmerman’s career grew from there — he has worked on coaching staffs at SMU, Levine Academy, St. Mark’s, Episcopal School of Dallas, the ABA’s North Dallas Vandals and his current position with Yavneh. What he didn’t know was how many of the players he coached would return — as coaches themselves.
There’s the 14-and-under Blue coach Ian Ribald, who lit up high school scoreboards during his prep playing days.
Then there’s fellow 16-and-under Blue coach Dmitriy Chernikov, who played for UT-Dallas.
Don’t forget Chad Albert, a 16-and-under Silver coach, and Konstantin Chernikov, who coaches the 16-and-under White squad.
That’s a strong start to a coaching tree for anyone, but there’s one more player that’s been itching to return to Texas: Scott Green.
“When I coached him in Maccabi, he would come up with everyone’s imaginary box scores,” Zimmerman said. “He was always into scouting, looking at brackets. Even as a player, he was like an assistant coach. Some players show up and read the scouting report before the game, but with Green, he already knew.”
So, it’s no wonder that Green found his way into coaching. The Texan-turned-Yankee’s 92nd Street Y 16-and-under team returns nine of 10 starters from last year’s Detroit Maccabi championship squad.
Watch out, Team Dallas!
“We’ve never coached against each other, so it’ll be really exciting,” the New York 92nd Street Y 16-and-under coach said. “It would be really nice for him to be impressed with how well we play.”
Green won’t see Zimmerman in pool play, but there’s a good chance both teams will advance into bracket play.
Green’s 92nd Street Y squad has played together for years, and those bonds have paid off when the team pushes its already fast tempo. Spacing, speed, and plenty of 3’s are guaranteed to put opponents’ hands on hips.
“We’re not so big or so tall, but when we’re playing well, we’re super-confident. Almost irrationally confident,” Green said.
This year marks their fourth Maccabi Games as a team, and Green has been playing his squad in Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) tournaments in preparation for the Dallas Games.
Zimmerman didn’t coach Green in prep school sports, but many of Green’s friends played for him, and Green went to school with Zimmerman’s sister. Green’s first taste of Zimmerman’s coaching style came at the JCC’s youth Peanut League, and the friendship formed from there.
“We’ve kept in touch since then,” Green said. “He’s a really smart guy. He’s got good insights that he’s learned to share with me.”
Green attributes last year’s Maccabi championship run in part to Zimmerman’s advice.
Two years earlier, Detroit hit a shot at the buzzer to sink Green’s team.
In the semifinals, the team stayed even with Detroit until overtime, when Green called for the tip-and-hold. The team won six straight tip-offs in overtime and eventually won by one point.
And then in the title game, the squad faced a Philadelphia team that had won by 19 in round-robin play.
“I spoke to (Zimmerman) the night before, asking his advice. He was super-helpful,” Green said.
As for what tactics Green used from Zimmerman? That’s a coaching secret.
“Scott and all these coaches … it’s flattering to think they’re in some tree of mine,” Zimmerman said. “They’ve done most of the heavy lifting themselves, but seeing them in action, it’s like I’m a proud papa.
“But the idea of coaching against them, it ages me. It’s like, ‘What in the world? I’ve been in this a little too long.’”
A native New Yorker, Zimmerman moved early in life to Texas, and it didn’t take long for him to fill his chest with some Lone Star pride. He felt that Dallas-area Jewish basketball teams were overlooked for more traditional centers of athletic dominance.
“Back then, the mantra was all the Jewish athletes were on the East and West Coast,” he said. “I wanted to show that there are plenty of athletes here.”
Green and the rest of the team started reversing the trend, winning games and grinding away at the coastal bias.
But what really gave Zimmerman a kick was when Texas-born Green headed to the Big Apple.
“It took a Dallas boy to go and coach those New Yorkers,” Zimmerman quipped.
If the New Yorkers hadn’t bought into Green’s style, they have now. Green has coached his squad since it was formed four years ago, and “all the families are totally committed,” he said.
“We go and watch their high school games. Nine of 10 kids’ parents are coming to Dallas.”
Green, who works full-time in finance at a research health care company, is especially excited to see his family and show the kids around DFW.
“We’ll go to Episcopal. That’s a gym where I played,” he said. “I want to show them where I grew up, the gym I played in and the JCC.”
If he has his way, plenty in Dallas will see his squad, too — maybe with gold medals hanging around their necks.
“There’s a reason why you coach these guys when they’re younger. They just get it,” Zimmerman said.
“You would hope they pick up my good habits and add something to it.”