Originally from Nova Scotia, Leslie was a classroom and physical education teacher at the elementary, intermediate and high school levels in both Nova Scotia and P.E.I. over the past 27 years. Leaving the classroom in 2006, he continued to impact student learning as a high school principal, before moving to the P.E.I. Department of Education in 2008 where he has been working as career education curriculum specialist and, more recently, secondary programs co-ordinator.
Over the past three decades, Leslie has followed his passion of coaching basketball at the local, provincial and national levels, learning from and with high performance coaches and players at the elite level. He has represented two provinces at the Canada Games as an official and a coach, is a former president and director of elite development with Basketball PEI, as well as an instructor with the Canada Basketball Atlantic High Performance Program. He has coached various provincial teams and high school programs in Nova Scotia and P.E.I., accumulating 14 provincial championships.
Leslie had courtside seats to most of last season’s Storm games and, watching head coach Joe Salerno from a fan’s perspective, felt he would have chemistry with the organization.
“It seemed when I would look across at the bench in certain situations, (Salerno and I) were reacting in similar ways to the dynamic of what was happening out on the floor,” he said.
“I had known (Storm co-owner) Duncan (Shaw) a little bit from working at UPEI. He’s a very strong supporter and alumnus of the UPEI men’s program that I’ve been involved in coaching before.”
Leslie has also officiated at the AUS, CIS, and recently completed a stint as an assistant coach with the UPEI Men’s Panthers. His love for teaching the fundamentals of the game has led many of his former players to achieve success on the court at college, university, national, and professional levels, and off the court.
The team has not yet issued word on whether Mev Bahonjic, Salerno’s assistant coach last season, will be returning for a second year. For his part, Leslie said he has no objections to working alongside another assistant.
While he admits that being an assistant coach for an NBL of Canada franchise will be different than any basketball position he’s held in the past, Leslie is looking forward to the challenge.
“It’s an elite league and these players have had a number of professional experiences beyond their university background. It’s nice to have an opportunity to work with players where this is their passion… and they want to pursue that to the highest degree,” he said. “These are grown men… who are doing this for a livelihood, and I haven’t worked with athletes in that circumstance much before. That’s a critical piece with the draft coming up, is trying to find the players that meet the dynamic of what you’re trying to create with the team.”
The Storm is gearing up for its second season in the NBL of Canada. Season, corporate and group ticket options along with ticket prices will be released this coming week.
The team is also holding its second annual draft party on Aug. 27 at Credit Union Place. Doors open at 7:15 p.m., while the draft will be streamed live beginning at 8 p.m.
The team’s training camp opens Oct. 15 with the first exhibition game scheduled for Oct. 26. The Storm’s first regular season home game is Nov. 2 at Credit Union Place in Summerside when they host the Saint John Mill Rats.