Bleich gives back to basketball
Brian Bleich continues to pad his impressive basketball resume.
The 52-year-old St. Catharines native is teaming with Niagara Falls native Jill Stiefelmeyer as the co-lead for men’s and women’s basketball at the Niagara 2022 Canada Summer Games.
Bleich is reprising the same role he took on at the U-18 FIBA (International Basketball Federation) championships held at the Meridian Centre in St. Catharines in 2018.
He is working closely with Stiefelmeyer, who participated in the 1989 Canada Summer Games in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.
“She does the planning and I make sure it gets done,” he said. “It’s an opportunity to give back. I played on the Canadian junior national team so it’s a natural event. It’s nice to give back what someone gave to me when I played.”
In his position, the former Canadian champion with the Brock Badgers is responsible for making sure everything is taken care of on the court and floor.
“We’re responsible for scheduling and the scorer’s table and all the minor volunteers at the benches and all the people around the floor area,” Bleich said. “I have a results and a scheduling person, equipment person, and also someone to run the scorer’s table.
“From the time an athlete enters the door, goes to the change room, to the floor, and back to the change room, that’s my responsibility.”
Bleich, who is employed by the Niagara Regional Police Service as a Detective Sergeant in the Homicide Unit, played in the 1987 Canada Winter Games in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. It was the final Canada Games to classify basketball as a winter sport.
“It was good,” he said. “We participated as Team Ontario. It’s a little different from now where you have big facilities. We stayed in a classroom at a high school with a bunch of bunk beds.
“Times have changed. Facilities have changed. We played at a high school.”
Bleich is looking forward to the Niagara 2022 Canada Games which will see basketball held at the Meridian Centre.
“It will be cool,” he said. “Between B.C. and Ontario, those are probably your top two provinces. Most of the kids who will be playing are post-secondary so you’ll get some top-notch players. Some NCAA players or future NCAA players and it’s a nice facility.
“It’s the future of sports.”
Bleich, who in 2014 was named president of the Pelham Panthers Basketball Association and also coaches the E.L. Crossley senior boys basketball team, turned to coaching when his playing career came to a conclusion. He’s also coached at Niagara College and was an assistant at Brock.
He feels blessed to have played for two local coaching legends.
“I’ve played for a lot of different types of coaches. I’ve been fortunate to have player coaches who let the players help out,” he said. “I played [for] Pat Woodburn (at Simcoe) and Ken Murray was the same at Brock. If you’re one of the top players, you get a lot of floor time. He was a player’s coach that way. It just wasn’t his way or the highway.”
Bleich said he’s taken a little bit from all his coaches when asked for his style.
“Probably none of it is Brian Bleich,” he smiled. “It’s part of my coaches over the years.”
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