Woodmere resident Elliot Steinmetz, the men’s varsity basketball coach at Yeshiva University, will be the inaugural recipient of the Jewish Sports Heritage Association’s Marty Riger Outstanding Jewish Coach of the Year Award.
Steinmetz, a former Y.U. basketball player, transformed the Maccabees into a Division III hoops power that from Nov. 10, 2019, to Dec. 31, 2021, had a 50-game win streak, was ranked No. 1 in the country for five weeks in 2021 and has led the team to appearances in the Skyline Conference championship since 2014, when he first became head coach.
He guided the squad to the program’s first Skyline title and an NCAA tournament berth in the 2017-18 season. Steinmetz has never finished with a losing record.
Along with his coaching prowess, the team’s success was ignited by talented players such as Ryan Terrell and Gabriel Leifer, a Lawrence native, who was honored by the Jewish Sports Heritage Association with the Jay Fiedler Outstanding Jewish College Athlete of the Year Award.
When asked about the significance of the award, Steinmetz credited much of his success to the tremendous talent he has had around him.
The award will be presented to Steinmetz at the association’s fifth annual induction ceremony at Temple Israel of Lawrence on April 23. The association started almost 30 years ago. Director Alan Freedman said the idea was to help change the perception of Jews in sports.
“We wanted to do something that was going to educate the public,” Freedman said. “It’s to help educate the public and maybe at the same time, break down some stereotypes, break down some barriers.”
The organization was going to be a small-scale educational program but took off to be much larger. The induction ceremony is the association’s most publicized event, but Freedman speaks to Jewish groups, and JCCs youth groups, about Jews in sports.
“It struck a nerve with me, both as an educator and a sports person,” he said. “We work with Temple Israel, and we have monthly movies, we have speakers, we do clinics, and all kinds of things. To me, it’s just fascinating.”
The goal has always been to break down barriers and the stigma of Jews in sports. One of the association’s awards is named after former NFL quarterback Jay Fiedler, an Oceanside native, who also played basketball in high school. Steinmetz’s award is named for Riger who was the coach of the 1998 Maccabi Games basketball team that Fiedler played on.
Steinmetz, an attorney with his own law firm, credits those around him for being able to juggle the dual workload.
“It’s very little sleep,” Steinmetz said. “A lot of care and passion for both, great assistant coaches, and a terrific partner who is both supportive and encouraging of both ventures. It’s time-consuming for sure. When you care about something, you are invested in it. It’s the same for my law practice. Both get 100 percent from me constantly.”
The fifth annual Induction ceremony for the Jewish Sports Heritage association takes place at Temple Israel, 140 Central Ave., Lawrence, Saturday April 23 at 10:30 a.m. For more information, go to JewishSportsHeritage.org.