Shadyside native embarks on new sports endeavor
ROCHESTER, Mich. — After enjoying a successful four-decade career in professional sports, John Ciszewski is primed for a new challenge.
The 1973 Shadyside High grad — better know to his friends as “Giz” — has been named associate athletic director for external operations at Oakland University, located in suburban Detroit. The Golden Grizzlies are members of the NCAA D-I Horizon League with an enrollment of 20,000.
Prior to accepting the Oakland position, Ciszewski spent some 40 years working for the Detroit Red Wings/Olympia Entertainment and the Detroit Pistons/Palace Sports and Entertainment.
“I am really excited to get started at Oakland. I have always had an affinity for college sports. While at the LCA (Little Caesars Arena) and even back at the Palace, I headed up our NCAA bids and tournament execution. A couple of which I?ll miss out on now,” Ciszewski said. “Also, I was instrumental in putting together NCAA basketball doubleheaders at both places and oversaw the Horizon League Tournament. So, I’ve kept myself connected with the college world.
“I am also excited to work with Steve Waterfield, Oakland’s new athletic director. We hit it off from Day One and share the same visions,” he added. “There is so much potential at Oakland University. It hasn’t been been a Division 1 school all that long, but its athletic program has had much success. I love working with young people and we have a young staff eager to grow professionally and learn.”
In his new position at Oakland, Ciszewski, age 64, will be in charge of supervision of communications, marketing and sales, fan experience, creative and emerging media, video services, licensing and branding. He will also directly oversee a couple of sports.
“I am looking forward to my duties at Oakland. I think my experience is one of the biggest assets I?ll bring to Oakland. Knock on wood, but over my 40 years I’ve been thrown about every challenge,” Ciszewski said. “I?m not ready to retire yet. I still feel I have a lot to give. It is not in my DNA not to be working. I love the competition and love getting up everyday thinking how can we be better today.”
Ciszewski was named the Senior Vice President of Sales for the Detroit Red Wings and Olympia Entertainment in 2010. In his most recent role, he directed all aspects of ticket sales for the Red Wings and Olympia Entertainment held at Little Caesars Arena.
Before joining the Red Wings and Olympia Entertainment, Ciszewski served as the Executive Vice President of Sales for Palace Sports and Entertainment and headed the department that kept the Detroit Pistons atop the NBA’s attendance rankings and made DTE Energy Music Theatre one of the nation’s leading outdoor amphitheaters. He spent 32 years with Palace Sports and Entertainment.
“I have been very lucky, spending over 40 years with two iconic franchises. It is unique for people to stay in this business as long as I have. A lot of people burn out, but I love the challenge everyday,” Ciszewski said. “I got the chance to work with some great people, many who have moved on to bigger and better things, and gotten to know some great coaches and players.
“The three NBA championships with the Pistons and one Stanley Cup championship when we owned the Tampa Bay Lightning were obviously highlights. I wish I could relive those moments again. It seemed like a stress test and adrenaline rush every night,” he continued. Also, having the opportunity to build and open two new arenas was also a highlight. The Palace at the time changed the way the entire industry looked at arenas and it was privately funded. It transformed the industry. Little Caesar’s Arena is doing the same. I was fortunate to be part of both of those.”
Ciszewski and his wife, Denise, have five daughters and reside in Lake Orion, Mich. He has a bachelor’s degree from Bethany College and a master’s degree in sports administration from Ohio University.
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