It’s been a bit of a coaching carousel for the Albert Einstein Academy boys basketball team this season.
Einstein athletic director Ken Erenberg, who has helped out with the team in the past, stepped in to temporarily lead the squad after an early season coaching change. He coached the team through the Santa Clarita Christian tournament in early December, and did so with now-head coach Mike Blischke beside him.
“Since I’ve always been helping out with them whenever I can, when I came in it was a pretty easy move for them,” Erenberg said. “And Mike Blischke sat on the bench with me during the SCCS tournament, and he was ready to take over after the third game.”
Blischke, a physical education teacher at Einstein and junior high softball coach, said he hesitated to take the job.
“To become the basketball coach means a lot more time away from home,” he said. “One of my boys said, ‘The varsity basketball coach? You have to do it!’ So I did it.”
And so Blischke inherited an Einstein team that had struggled through preleague, but was also coming off of last year’s undefeated Omega League season.
Only two players return from that team: seniors Tristain Cascio and Zach Kaufman.
Kaufman has stepped up as a leader and is an aggressive force on the court. With some fine-tuning, he could be at the forefront of the offense.
“It took me a minute to get him to dribble toward the basket rather than away from the basket,” Blischke said. “But once I got him to do that, he’s been amazing.”
Kaufman’s abilities are reflected in sophomore Brandon Cove, another adept shooter, especially when it comes to 3-pointers.
Through the transitions, Erenberg noticed junior Justin Barker can be valuable as well.
“Justin Barker is a real scrappy type of guy who’s going to get you a double-double almost every night,” he said. “Justin’s good for 10 points, 10 rebounds every game.”
Barker fits the traditional defend-first Einstein system, which will mostly remain the same despite the change of coaches.
The only thing that will change is that everyone will get faster, thanks to the new coach’s old-school, gym teacher mentality.
“They have to run faster and run longer,” Blischke said. “They were a bit out of shape when I took them over. Their conditioning is better and they’re running faster and the heavy breathing has gone down.
“I’m a fundamental guy. I love conditioning. I love dribbling, passing, shooting. Shooting is last, though.”