Former basketball star Steineman headed to hall of fame

By David Fong

TROY — In chaos theory, there’s a metaphorical tale about a butterfly flapping its wings on one side of the planet and causing major — even catastrophic — changes in weather patterns all the way across the globe.

The whole point of the tale is that sometimes events that seem incredibly small at the time are capable of having inexplicably huge, even global, impacts down the road.

It’s known, appropriately enough, as “the butterfly effect.”

More than four decades ago, a basketball coach at Troy High School named Bob Denari took an interest in a tall, unpolished freshman named Dick Steineman. At the time, neither Denari or Steineman could possibly have known how great the impact of that basketball decision would have on the Troy community many years later.

Call it “the basketball effect.”

Under Denari’s tutelage, Steineman would become a basketball star both at Troy and Ashland University in the 1970s. So good was Steineman that he will be inducted this weekend into the Troy Athletic Hall of Fame Class of 2017. He’ll be joined by track and field coach Herb Hartman (1968-present), Troy football coach Steve Nolan (1984-2011), gymnast/track athlete Rob Evans (class of 1978) and volleyball/basketball player Stacy Pahl Schretzman (class of 1985). The five will be introduced at the Troy football team’s home game against Bellefontaine Friday, then formally inducted in a ceremony Saturday at the Crystal Room in Troy.

For all he accomplished on the basketball court, however, it pales in comparison to what he’s done off the court, as he’s spent the past 30 years feeding the hungry and helping those who are down on their luck.

All of which started because of basketball.

“After I graduated from Ashland, a couple of guys who were older than me had played in Europe and South America,” Steineman said. “That seemed like a good option for me. My fourth year, I was playing in Venezuela and I went to our coach, Jim Mitchell, one day after practice and told him I wanted to see some of the country that was off the side track. They found a pastor who would show me around.

“The pastor took me up on a hillside where there were about 500-600 people. None of them had any water or electricity. I will never forget that day. It was a Thursday at 9:30 at night and when I came down that hillside; I remember looking up at all those people and telling myself, ‘Wherever I am after my basketball career ends, God wants me to help people.’”

Soon after Steineman’s basketball career ended, he came back to Ohio and worked at a shelter in Cincinnati’s poverty-stricken Over-The-Rhine neighborhood. He would do that for a decade before moving back to Troy and starting the St. Patrick Soup Kitchen in Troy. With a small amount of seed money, Steineman started something that now feeds thousands.

“In the 21 years since we started, we now feed 2,000 people every month,” Steineman said. “Through basketball, I found my vocation on that hillside in Venezuela.”

Before basketball could change Steineman’s life — and, ultimately, the lives of the thousands he has helped over the years — however, Steineman actually had to become a basketball player.

Because his freshman year in high school, he didn’t resemble anything close to one.

“I had only played one year of basketball — that was (Catholic Youth Organization) basketball my eighth grade year,” Steineman said. “I remember Bob Denari was the basketball coach and biology teacher. On the second day of school he pulled me into his classroom and measured me. I was a 6-foot-3 freshman. He said he sat behind me in church one Sunday and saw my dad was 6-5, and my mom was 6-1. He told me, ‘I want you at basketball practice Oct. 31.’ He said I had better be there. So I went.”

While Steineman may have had the requisite height to be a basketball player, however, he had none of the skill. By his own admission, the gangly Steineman could scarcely get up and down the court without tripping over his own feet.

“I ended up going to practice and the very first day, we started on layup drills,” he said. “On my first try, I missed the whole backboard. I had no clue what I was doing. He ran up being me screaming that he wanted to see me after practice. He told me I owed him 100 ‘suicides’ (sprint drills). He told me he would let me do 10 a night for 10 nights.”

That was just the beginning of the life-altering relationship between Denari and Steineman.

For the next four years, Denari would spend 90 minutes three days a week after school in the Cookson Elementary School gym working individually with Steineman to transform him into a basketball player. The results would pay off in dividends, as Steineman would continue growing physically — he would reach 6-foot-8 by his senior year — and on the court.

In his three varsity seasons, Steineman would score 848 career points (17.0 per game) — fifth in school history — and pull down 596 rebounds (11.9 per game). His senior year, he scored 44 points against Greenville (a school record), averaged 24.1 points per game and was named first-team All-Western Ohio League and third-team All-Ohio.

Following graduation, he would go on to Ashland, where he averaged 15.4 points and 7.9 rebounds per game. He set a school record for points in a game (38) and helped guide his team to the NCAA Tournament his junior and senior years. After he graduated from Ashland, he would go on to play professionally in 13 different countries throughout Europe and South America.

None of those stops along the way in his professional career, however, would have as profound an effect as the one in Venezuela.

“Basketball got me a full ride to college and basketball was the vehicle that put me where I am today,” he said. “If it hadn’t been for basketball, I have no idea what I’d be doing now. In a lot of ways, I guess you could say basketball has helped me help a lot of people.”

Contact David Fong at; follow him on Twitter @thefong

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Photo Courtesy of Troy High School Dick Steineman (44) puts up a shot for the Troy High School basketball team. He will be inducted into the Troy Athletic Hall of Fame ths weekend. Courtesy of Troy High School Dick Steineman (44) puts up a shot for the Troy High School basketball team. He will be inducted into the Troy Athletic Hall of Fame ths weekend.
Steineman headed to hall of fame