Frank Oleynick doesn't flaunt his days as an NBA player to the kids at the camps he runs as the director of We Are Future Stars, which holds sessions in Fairfield and other communities. He knows, however, that his professional resume carries weight.
"The former NBA thing has a lot to do with it,'' says Oleynick, a former Notre Dame of Fairfield star who played for the Seattle Supersonics. "If I go and make 63 free throws in a row, they're in awe."
Oleynick's path from high school and college star to NBA player to director of successful basketball instructional program was circuitous. Oleynick, 55, has been running camps since 1997, in Fairfield, Stamford and Bridgeport as well as in Westchester County, N.Y. Oleynick used to be more spread out, but that cut into his teaching time.
"At one time we had about 30 camps, and I became an administrator,'' said Oleynick, who also does after-school programs. "That's not what I do. I don't enjoy that. I'm not good at it. Teaching basketball is what I do." He called the basketball court "my office."
The youngsters learn a player who was nicknamed "Magic" long before Earvin Johnson. Oleynick was a first-team all-state selection at Notre Dame before heading to Seattle University. He quickly became a college star, earning a starting role midway through his freshman year. Oleynick was the West Coast Athletic Conference co-freshman of the year and the conference MVP in 1973-74. He averaged more than 27 points per game as a junior in an era before the three-point shot.
"This cat was brass, very cocky and very sure of his game," Ron Howard, a former teammate at Seattle U., said in a 2001 interview with The Seattle Times. "He was doing things that we hadn't seen out here, but he let his game do all the talking. When you've got game like he had, you don't need to do any talkin' anyway. He was all that, man."
The Supersonics drafted Oleynick in the first round (12th overall) in 1975. His favorite memory is scoring 23 points in a 1977 game against his boyhood idol, Pete Maravich.
After an injury cut short his NBA career, Oleynick played professionally overseas before returning to Connecticut. He worked for 13 years in sales and marketing for a Fairfield company before starting his camps. "I asked for a leave of absence for 90 days and said, 'Let's see what happens,''' Oleynick said. "I thought, my kids are only young once; this will be a good time to try it. I'm still doing it and still loving it."
His students love him, too. Oleynick commands attention with an assertive style that is neither boisterous nor brash. He lets players know what they're doing and why. He also lets kids be kids.
"I've learned that kids love to play,'' Frank says. "I'm not the biggest fan of AAU basketball. I don't think you have to go to Rhode Island for the weekend to get better. You can better just by playing games."
Does any one have memories of Frank Oleynick as a high school star or his NBA career? Share below!