For basketball coach Mike Carter, this time it’s personal. Ex-pro Carter is not just assistant coach of the American team at the Maccabiah. He’s also mentoring his two Israeli-born sons, Ben and Timothy, who are on the squad. His Israeli wife, Hadar, is with them for the Games, and they’ll be meeting up with the whole Israeli side of their family.
Carter’s professional basketball career spanned 17 years and saw him play all over the world, from the United States to the Philippines. But the highlight, he said, was his time in Israel — at Hapoel Holon, a club in the heart of the country with a rich tradition.
“The five years in Holon were the best years in my career,” Carter told The Times of Israel in a recent interview. “The fans in Holon fell in love with me, and I fell in love with them. I follow the club to this day. I am looking forward to going back and showcasing my sons. Who knows, maybe one day they will play in Holon,” he said.
After both of Carter’s boys committed to play for the Maccabiah team at this month’s Games, Head Coach Brad Greenberg reached out to Carter, Sr. and asked him to serve as his assistant coach at the “Jewish Olympics.” Mike accepted immediately.
Greenberg “knew I was a former head coach, a former player in Israel, and I could bring a lot of experience and knowledge of basketball,” continued Carter.
It’s going to be ‘an amazing time for my whole family’
“It was also an opportunity for me to bring my kids back to the Holy Land, where they were born. My wife’s [Israeli] family has never seen the kids play. Last time they saw them, they were little kids; now they’re six-foot-nine. It’s a dream come true for my family,” Carter said.
He promises “no favoritism” for his sons, though. As coach, “I treat them like all the other players.” [Days after the interview, during practice, Tim Carter was injured and taken off the active roster.]
In all, Carter spent 13 years living in Israel, and has lots he wants to share with his sons on what is only their second visit to the country. The first time was back in 1996, when Hapoel Holon retired their father’s jersey. “I want them to see the historical sites, and visit Holon and see the fans. That’s where my heart is,” he said.
“I want to drive by where Timmy and Ben were born. I want them to retrace my footsteps, see where I lived, and of course spend time with their family.”
Though Tim and Ben were both born in Israel, they don’t know much about their roots, explained their father. “They are both very proud to be Israeli citizens… I know they can’t wait to reestablish their roots. Ben is even planning to play [one day, for Israel’s] National Team.”
For Mike, this trip marks 30 years since he first came to Israel. “[The] 30-year anniversary is going to be very special… It will be a very, very emotional time for us.”
Ben Carter, a redshirt freshman at the University of Oregon, is the youngest member of the Maccabiah hoop squad, but said that doesn’t worry him a bit. “Though I am the youngest, I am going to try to show the country and my teammates the skill set that I have.”
Ben said he is also very excited to learn from head coach, Greenberg — who recently led Maccabi Haifa to its first-ever championship when the team defeated powerhouse Maccabi Tel Aviv. “I recognize all Brad’s accomplishments and believe he has a great basketball mind,” he added, and hopes the coach will help him on his journey to “becoming a better basketball player.”
Being coached by his father is pretty exciting too, especially in the Maccabiah atmosphere. “It is an honor playing for my dad. People don’t always appreciate what he does. He played 17 years of pro basketball and coached very well.”
“Playing in [the] Maccabiah Games in the country where I was born, and getting to play in front of my Israeli family, is very special. Tim and I take pride in our Israeli heritage,” Ben enthused. “It will be great seeing my Israeli family, and seeing the hospital where I was born.”
Tim, a junior at Wyoming Community College, said the trip will be “an amazing time for my whole family. He said he’s spent his whole life seeing his Israeli relatives via Skype. “It’s going to be great to give them a hug and a kiss and see them in person.”
After finishing out his basketball career in school, Tim plans on playing professional basketball overseas, and “Israel is my first choice.”
Coach Greenberg, meanwhile, enthused about his assistant, and the whole Carter family. “It’s special to have Mike on the staff. Mike is a very good coach and is doing a great job with our team… And it’s really fantastic that the Carter family can all be here for the Games, and enjoy what is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”