The Jewish Link of New Jersey would like to recognize Elliot Steinmetz as this week’s Sportstar of the Week. Steinmetz, a partner at the commercial real estate transactions and litigations firm of Rosenberg & Steinmetz PC, has earned recent fame as the head coach of the Yeshiva University Macs men’s basketball team.
Success on the court is nothing new to Steinmetz. After a playing career that consisted of four terrific years at Rambam Mesivta, where Steinmetz helped lead the Redman (now known as the Ravens) to their first and only league championship—as well as Sarachek championship—in his junior year. He followed that by leading the league in scoring his senior year with 25 points per game. After playing for the Yeshiva University Macs ‘99-’02, Seinmetz was off the basketball grid while pursuing his law degree. After a brief hiatus, he found himself back on the hardwood, but in a different role, now as the head coach of the HANC Hurricanes. In 2009, Steinmetz led the Hurricanes to their first and only varsity championship. Five years later and coaching on a different bench, Steinmetz led the North Shore Hebrew Academy to its first and only championship in 2014. Steinmetz also coached the gold medal-winning United States 18 and under boys basketball team for the Maccabiah Games in Israel.
Coach Steinmetz’s Maccabees finished the 2019-20 season ranked No. 8 in the country, according to the latest D3hoops.com Men’s Top 25 National Poll. The Macs earned their first two NCAA tournament victories in program history, on their way to the Sweet 16. Steinmetz led Yeshiva to an NCAA Division III-best record of 29-1, including 29 consecutive victories since the season opener. YU captured both the Skyline regular season and postseason championships. The Macs earned their first national ranking in school history, back on January 27, and has climbed higher in the rankings in each of the last six weeks in which a new poll from D3hoops.com was released (from No. 24 to No. 22 to No. 21 to No. 15 to No. 13 and now No. 8).
Steinmetz was named Skyline Coach of the Year twice (2017-18 and 2019-20), and earned Atlantic Region Coach of the Year accolades from D3hoops.com and the National Association of Basketball Coaches. Steinmetz also gives back to the community as a committee member for various tzedaka organizations including Ohel and Our Place NY. He can be found on Instagram @coach_yu_macs.
Coach, thank you for taking a few minutes out of your busy schedule to talk with us. It is an understatement to say that you have had a very successful playing and coaching career. If you had to spotlight a top moment from each, what would they be?
As a player, I think it was probably my first game senior year of high school. We were on the road at Westchester. I had always struggled with confidence on and off the court as a high school and middle school player, but had really focused the summer before senior year on competing against older and better players to try and build that up. My high school coach, Joey Hoenig, gave me a ton of confidence going into that year and I remember coming out of the huddle just feeling different. I had a really good game and I felt that boost in self-confidence was a turning point in my life. As a coach it would be easy to pick a championship victory, but the truth is, my favorite moment is the moment after the buzzer sounded on our undefeated Skyline Conference championship victory and every single one of our players immediately lined up to shake hands with the other team. We talk all the time about acting with class and representing our university and people in the right way. The maturity and understanding that another team’s season just ended and the willingness to wait on your own celebration to first respect and acknowledge your opponents, to me was a moment I was very proud of.
Who was one of your favorite teammates?
I was lucky enough to play with some really great players and teammates. In high school it was Dov Wiener. Superstar and great scorer, but what people didn’t often realize was how unselfish a player he was. He made everyone around him better. He gave confidence to his role players and was a terrific leader. In college, it was probably Eli Hami. Similar to Dov, a special talent, but always willing to make the right play. The winning play.
Who was your greatest rival as a player?
I don’t know that I was a good enough player to have a true rival as a player. But I do remember some good games against Jamie Dweck of Magen David back in high school. He was (and still is) a fantastic ballplayer.
Who was your greatest rival as a coach?
At the high school level, the toughest player I coached against was Jojo Fallas of Shalhevet. We thought we had him under wraps in the Sarachek Tournament semifinals and had a nice halftime lead. The kid came out and gave us 22 points in the second half and won the game with three seconds left.
At the college level, the toughest player I have had to prepare for so far was probably Jamail Stanley from Old Westbury. Phenomenal athlete who could score, rebound and defend. It took us three games getting beat to figure him out and we finally beat them in his last regular season game of his career and did a good job on him. He was player of the year in the Skyline two straight years.
Looking back, can you pinpoint a moment that made you realize you would be a great coach?
I don’t know that I ever considered coaching while I was playing. In fact, my first two years coaching at the high school level I wasn’t sure it was really for me. I was struggling to balance letting players be great and trying to keep some semblance of control as a coach. I think that’s one of the hardest parts of coaching—letting your players be great. I have been lucky to have some really good players make me look really good as a coach over the years.
What is the biggest difference between coaching high school and college ball?
The level all around. The players on your team. The players on the opposing teams. The opposing coaches. It takes a lot of hard work, and more so, convincing others to put in a lot of hard work, in order to be successful.
What would your advice be for yeshiva high school players who want to take their game to the next level and play college ball?
My first piece of advice is always to watch games. Division III basketball has become very high level. The thought that any good high school player can compete at this level is a major misconception. Then it’s just about hard work and understanding. It’s talent and work ethic, but it’s also selflessness and attitude. We don’t just recruit talent. We recruit personalities and attitudes as well.
Is there an active head coach that you have modeled your style after?
I don’t think there is an active coach I model my style after. I try to keep my own personality when teaching and coaching. That said, there is no doubt I am constantly trying to learn from active and past coaches with regard to various concepts on and off the court. Very little of what we do as coaches is original thought. It’s about finding the concepts that work for your group and having the ability to manage people and implement a system.
I am sure you encounter some anti-Semitism or Jew phobia. How do you handle it?
It’s something we have encountered over the years for sure. We used to stay silent and walk away. That’s something we no longer do. As I wrote about on my social media a few months back, silence is complicity. People need to stand up and be loud.
Aside from practicing law, what do you like to do when not coaching at YU?
Practicing law is really my primary focus. I have a commercial real estate law practice in New York, Rosenberg & Steinmetz pc. We handle commercial real estate transactions and litigations. The firm has been in existence for about six years and thankfully have built a high level client base and practice. As you know, coaching is a passion and hobby and something I certainly love and take seriously, but we always stress to our guys that life is bigger than basketball. No better way to live that example than by being a full-time attorney. The fact that I am able to schedule practices at 6:30 a.m. and film sessions either virtually or at nights has been what’s allowed me to continue to coach while focusing full time on my law practice. Other than that, it’s about spending time with my kids and trying to be at their school or sporting events as much as possible. I ask them before every season if they are OK with me continuing to coach. They take the biggest hit in terms of time I spend out of the house.
Please send nominees for an upcoming Jewish Link of New Jersey Sportstar of the Week to [email protected]