Brett Brown has traveled the world coaching basketball, while Jay Wright has spent most of his coaching career in the American northeast. Still, they’ve both led and mentored young players from all over, and had to bring them together to play as a team, regardless of personality, beliefs, or background. They have experience. But all of that isn’t much compared to what they just did by conducting “basketball clinics and conflict-resolution seminars” in Jerusalem and West Bank for PeacePlayers International.
According to a Catholic News Service report, both Wright and Brown connected with PPI via Pistons president Arn Tellem, who is on the board. Brown sounded moved by the whole situation:
“The history is breathtaking, so when PPI offered me the opportunity, I accepted immediately … The concept of teamwork and playing together are common areas that cross-pollinate both coaching basketball and the PeacePlayers’ initiative … It was a first-time opportunity for these kids to learn skills and play basketball … and it was jaw-dropping for me. Their eyes and expressions left an imprint that will not go away soon.”
Brown joined Wright – who brought his wife and kids along to help – in coaching a clinic of “Palestinian, Israeli and American high school players.” The goal of the whole thing was to foster and encourage peace, but that’s not always as easy as it sounds. Violence in Jerusalem and the West Bank broke out while the coaches were there, but Wright was happy to have helped the kids in any way:
“The goal was to use the sport to enable Arabs and Jews to concentrate on the game of basketball — their skills and the needs of each other as teammates — and to look past the conflict and see each other as human beings, with the ultimate goal being to transform the relationships of Jews and Arabs in the younger generation … We all realized how complex issues are in Israel and Palestine, how a majority on both sides wants peace … yet volatility and politics allow any incident, at any time, to escalate into war.”
These are the kinds of guys you want guiding young players on the court, so it’s good that Brown’s players are – on average – barely older than Wright’s.