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Klein, Maccabi coach, dies

Ralph Klein, the coach who led Maccabi Tel Aviv to the European basketball title, has died.

Klein, 77, died Thursday from cancer.

Born in Germany, Klein immigrated to Israel in 1951 from Hungary, where Raoul Wallenberg had saved him and much of his family from the Nazis.

As a teenager, he had played basketball for the Hungarian national league, and he soon launched a career as a player for Maccabi. In 1970, he was named the team’s coach, and made it the preeminent Israeli team.
He led it to a European championship in 1977; it was one of a series of victories for Israelis in the 1970s – Miss Universe, an Oscar for a film made by Moshe Mizrahi, twin Eurovision song contests – that helped a beleaguered nation feel more at home in the world.

The footage of streets packed with wild, whooping Maccabi fans that victorious night still features in nostalgic televised recounts of Israeli history. Klein shocked Israelis in the mid-1980s when he agreed to coach the German national team. After his retirement, he returned to Israel and dedicated himself to teaching young Israelis about a sport he believed helped forge character.

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