In this, his first season as the head coach of the Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community Day School’s boys varsity basketball team, Ari Braun led his players to a 17-9 overall record, 10-4 in their conference. That was good enough to earn second place in the Class C Division of the tough Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association. After making it all the way to the MIAA championship game this past weekend, the Warriors lost a heartbreaker to Indian Creek School from Crownsville, 48-45.
It was an amazing season under the guidance of the new coach. Braun, who clearly loves basketball, is an amazing teacher of the game whose journey to BT presents an interesting story.
Braun is a native of Silver Spring and a 1997 graduate of Yeshiva High School of Greater Washington. After graduation, he traveled to Israel to study, first for a year at Yeshivat Yerushalayim and then for six months at Yeshivat Ateret Yerushalayim. After returning from Israel in 1999, he got his first taste of what coaching was all about when he served as an assistant coach at Talmudical Academy in Baltimore under coach Harold Katz.
Braun then spent six years coaching in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio. He then spent spent five years as the athletic director and head
basketball coach of Yeshivat Rambam in Baltimore until the school closed in 2011. In 2012 he served as the head coach of the Shoshana S. Cardin School before taking over as the boys junior varsity head coach at Beth Tfiloh. After one season he was
elevated to his current position.
The Jewish Times spoke with Braun about his first season at BT, about the players who helped him achieve some instant success and what the future holds for the Warriors.
JT: Tell us about the players who made this season such a success.
Braun: I really walked into a great situation with five players returning from last year’s team. Danny Gross is a senior and one of our captains; he’s a great guy and an extremely hard worker. He’s got good size and strength and will outwork anyone. Spencer Kronthal is our other holdover senior from last year. He has been the biggest surprise of the team because of his great improvement. Our juniors are Jordan King, Marty Perlmutter and Dani Katz. The duo of Katz and King are the two leading rebounders and scorers on the team. Perlmutter has great athleticism and speed [and] has become a great player both offensively and defensively. Our top reserves are three guards who played for us last year on the junior varsity team, Matt Kassner, Eitan Hariri, and Peleg Ovadia. They have provided us with quality players. … That bench talent has been one of the main reasons for our success.
How much help do you get coaching?
A big reason for our success this season is because of the hard work of my assistant coaches, Pinny Margolius and Eli Creeger. Coach Margolius has instituted a brand new fitness program, as well as a nutrition program, that has been a huge help to our team. He also has done an outstanding job of going over our opponents on tape and helping with practices. Coach Creeger, a BT alumnus and veteran Warrior basketball player, is in charge of our junior varsity team and also does pregame scouting. Both these young men have helped me immensely.
Do you get much support from the Beth Tfiloh student body and community?
The support of the faculty, students, parents and alumni has been amazing. I love seeing alumni come out to support us, because that hopefully let’s our kids know that they are part of something much bigger then themselves. We even have former coaches come cheer us on. Stan Lustman, who coached the last championship team, and Mel Pachino, who was an assistant to Stan as well as on last year’s team, are frequently at our games.
Who are your coaching inspirations?
I have three; two are legends and members of the Basketball Hall of Fame, and the third is a very close friend. Dean Smith, who was the head coach of the University of North Carolina, impressed me with his dedication to the concept of playing as a team no matter how many stars he might have. The other [legend] is Morgan Wootten, who was the head coach at DeMatha Catholic High School in Hyattsville, Md. I had the honor of working with him at his basketball camps. He taught me a great deal about how to work with high school kids and how to prepare them for college. Last but not least is Harold Katz, who gave me my start in the profession and has provided me with invaluable guidance at every step of my career. I have had the honor of coaching all four of his sons, including Dani, who is on this year’s team. All three of these men have a profound influence on the way I coach today.