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In the Zone

Maccabi Basketball Coach Has High Hopes for Baltimore Delegation

If Danny Hoffman has his way, Baltimore’s JCC Maccabi Games basketball team will one day become a national powerhouse, on par with some of the biggest teams in Atlanta, Miami, and Philadelphia. Until then, believes Hoffman, Baltimore is primed to continue growing its reputation and standings in the sport. 

Entering his third year as a Baltimore JCC Maccabi Games coach, Hoffman brings serious basketball pedigree to his ambitious goals. As a teenager, Hoffman, a Pittsburgh native, competed in basketball at the JCC Maccabi Games as a member of team Pittsburgh. “The Pittsburgh Maccabi team had the best Jewish athletes. I was thrilled to get the call that I made it,” he says. In 2008, the team played in New York City.

The Olympic-style opening ceremonies were held at Madison Square Garden. ESPN’s Chris Berman served as the keynote speaker. “Chris Berman said that while we may not know each other, we shared one common perspective to build upon. We were Jewish and we played sports. That connectedness travels across communities.”   

While earning his bachelor’s degree in marketing at the University of Maryland, Hoffman played club basketball, never forgetting his Maccabi roots. After his 2015 graduation, he competed on Maccabi USA’s 18+ basketball team in the Pan American Maccabi Games in Santiago, Chile. “It was great to represent my country and meet other Jewish athletes from around the world.” 

In 2017, Hoffman relocated to Baltimore to work for an e-commerce firm. One of his first tasks, he says, was connecting to the Jewish community. “At first, I coached basketball in the JCC middle school leagues,” he says. The following year, he coached the Maccabi basketball team for 15- and 16-year-old boys, taking the group to the Orange County, CA games. There, the team won a gold medal. In 2019, his team had another strong showing, making it to the playoff round. 

Now 26, he appreciates seeing the games from a coach’s perspective. “I want kids to have the same great experiences I had. It’s about more than the game,” he says. “The JCC Maccabi Games blend Judaism and sports. I see kids grow as people and learn more about the world beyond their community.” 

He also wants athletes to realize Maccabi connections last beyond the buzzer. Recently, Hoffman reconnected with former teammates, who also became coaches, one in Pittsburgh and another in Washington, D.C. “Through Maccabi, I’ve met new people and rekindled friendships from my teenage years.” 

He’s looking forward to recruiting another championship team for the 2020 games. Even when he’s not coaching, he’s still in the game. He plays in three separate basketball leagues, calling his love for the game an obsession. “Everything started for me with Maccabi,” he says.  

Join: The 2020 JCC Maccabi Games will be held in August 2 through 7 in San Diego, CA and August 9 through 14 in Westchester, NY. For more information about Baltimore’s Maccabi Games and Artsfest, including tryouts and team information, visit jcc.org/jccmaccabigames.

More than 120,000 Jewish youth have participated in the annual sports festival since the first JCC Maccabi games in 1982. Today, the Maccabi Games are considered the world’s third largest sporting event – after the World Cup and Olympic Games.