David Mincberg and Josh Bartelstein
David Mincberg and Josh Bartelstein. (Jerry Zolynsky)

David Mincberg and Josh Bartelstein are doing what they can to improve the team and earn a championship.

On a regular basis this summer, David Mincberg has been commuting 372.5 miles from Milwaukee to Midtown. If he’s lucky, it’s a commute that can be done in five hours, 15 minutes and a few seconds. Though, depending largely on unpredictable and undeniable traffic through Chicago, it can easily be closer to seven hours. 

By the time this article is published, Mincberg plans to be at-home in Detroit — more specifically Birmingham — with his wife, Allyson, and young sons Charlie and Isaac. The DC native, and son of a noted legal professional who served as the U.S. House Judiciary Committee’s chief counsel for oversight and investigations under Michigan Congressman John Conyers, is one of a rare breed this year: Jewish community members moving to town during an unprecedented pandemic who you’d like to invite over for Shabbat dinner, if only you could.

The Mincbergs, already an enrolled family at Hillel Day School, didn’t envision being here just a few months ago. But it’s just one more surprise in a year filled with curveballs. This past June, the Detroit Pistons hired former Oklahoma City Thunder executive Troy Weaver as the new general manager. Weaver reached out and asked Mincberg to be his assistant general manager, which just happened to be his dream job. 

David Mincberg and Josh Bartelstein
David and Josh with the Piston’s championship trophies. Jerry Zolynsky

“I have known and admired Troy Weaver for a very long time,” Mincberg said. “He is one of the smartest, highest integrity people in the NBA. He is an unbelievable leader and I could not pass up this opportunity.” 

Mincberg, 39, was recruited from the Milwaukee Bucks, a top team in the Eastern Conference, where he served as director of basketball strategy.

Mincberg said he and his wife are very excited to give back to the community. “It’s an incredible city and has much to offer as we work to build another championship team.”

He has met and worked with many former Pistons players and was drawn to the vision of creating the best organization possible, with a focus on making the entire city and entire community better. His focus is to help the team get better and more strategic every day.

Mincberg gravitated to the quality of leadership he witnessed here, including Coach Dwayne Casey; Pistons Senior Adviser Ed Stefanski, both of whom he deeply respects; and Arn Tellem, vice chairman of Palace Sports & Entertainment.

“The people, the opportunity to be a part of a great community like Detroit, was one of the only situations I’d take to leave a great role in Milwaukee,” he said. “Meeting Arn, for me, was like interviewing with a hero from afar. Arn’s reputation is impeccable and that’s for a reason. He is someone I have always admired … The opportunity to work with him and the entire team is remarkable.”

David Mincberg and Josh Bartelstein
David and Josh play some one-on-one. Jerry Zolynsky

For Mincberg, the grandson of Holocaust survivors, tikkun olam, repairing the world, is of deep importance to him and his wife. 

“We want to be a part of helping because we have to work together to get us out of this. Some of the social justice issues are even more important than ever to do your part to make the community and the world a better place. 

“We are really excited to join the community,” he added. “COVID has been very difficult as we have not been able to see members of our family for a long time. My wife is tremendous; she has done a great job with the kids and we realize there are a lot of people struggling. I am fortunate to have a job, and we have been mindful that many are without a job.”

David and his wife are passionate about PeacePlayers International, an organization which “uses basketball to unite, educate and inspire young people to create a more peaceful world.”

Moving On Up

Another member of the Pistons organization that Mincberg now works alongside is Josh Bartelstein, who was promoted in July to become the executive vice president of operations, chief of staff of the Pistons.

Bartelstein, Mincberg said, is tremendous — “one of the brightest people I have ever been around. He is very young, but you almost don’t realize that because he is so mature, so smart, so polished and so passionate. He is really an exceptional leader. Someone I have really enjoyed working with and am excited to work with him more.”

Bartelstein, a resident of Royal Oak, has made a serious impact on the Pistons organization since joining the team nearly five years ago. The Chicago native was recruited by Tellem to be his assistant when he joined the organization. 

“I was nervous at first of moving away from Chicago. I loved my job and being around my sisters, parents and grandparents,” Bartelstein said. “But I saw a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity in Detroit.” 

David Mincberg and Josh Bartelstein
Jerry Zolynsky

Five years in, he now considers himself a Detroiter and a Michigander.

Tellem immediately saw a special personality in Bartelstein. “He has a sincere way with people and is able to develop immediate respect,” he said. “He has been like my fourth son. If he is not in Chicago for the holidays, he is with me and my family.” 

The qualities that Tellem noticed early have been most helpful as the Pistons have moved their operation to the city of Detroit and opened a premier practice facility. Bartelstein is now instrumental in helping to oversee the NBA G League undertaking to play at Wayne State University. “When there were problems, he was able to manage them and bring people together, which is his great strength,” Tellem said. “He has been absolutely instrumental to me and the team.” 

Before COVID, Tellem and Bartelstein could be seen strategizing at Phoenicia or Commonwealth in Birmingham. Now, they speak five or six times a day. “Usually my first call in the morning and my last call in the evening,” Tellem said.

Bartelstein noted the remarkable chemistry he has with Tellem. “I spend more time with Arn than anyone else. Has been an incredible mentor to me. I am so incredibly grateful. He gave me a chance, allowed me to make mistakes and grow. A big part of my journey has been through Arn. He is truly an even better person than all his success embodies.”

Jeffrey Schostak, president of Schostak Development, worked closely with Bartelstein on the former Palace of Auburn Hills acquisition, which took about two years. 

“Josh was very hands on, diligent and thoughtful throughout the entire process,” Schostak said. “We became great friends while negotiating a complex transaction … Our entire organization views Josh as a person with the utmost integrity, and we are thrilled to have Josh and his team as partners with us as we embark on the redevelopment of the former Palace property to a first-class research and technology park.”

Bartelstein, 31, has lived and breathed the game for years. He is the son of respected sports agent Mark Bartelstein and was a senior captain of the Wolverines’ 2013 Final Four team. He was deeply focused on being the best basketball player he could be for his first 21 years. Coach John Beilein, the former basketball coach at U-M, told the Detroit Jewish News that Josh was one of the reasons for the renaissance of Michigan basketball.

“He came in the second year or so, and we were not the program we became at that time,” Beilein said. “His leadership, sacrifice, dedication to the greater good of the team was everything to us. If he hadn’t been injured, he would have played in a lot more games. 

“Despite that he did not play a lot, his voice and direction made a lot of difference,” Beilein continued. “I am sure he has made a similar impact at the Pistons. He is a winner, and he sees the big picture … He helped to put us in the Final Four. He really helped expedite our growth at Michigan because of his attitude. He had a huge effect on many of our players, many who are in the NBA as players today.”

In Bartelstein’s book, We On, he writes about the journey of the Michigan team’s Final Four run. On one Saturday, he shared the story of his team staying in a hotel and being surprised to see a bar mitzvah taking place in the room nearby. The rocking seventh graders allowed him to explain exactly what a bar mitzvah is to his team. “A kippah and a tallis aren’t exactly things most of our team has seen before, but they are much more knowledgeable now on the Jewish religion,” he wrote.

Up and down the Woodward corridor, Mincberg, Bartelstein and Tellem showcase leaders in the local sports economy focused on advancing partnerships that help the city and strategies that get the team closer to a championship.

They also broaden the narrative about who moves into the Detroit community at a time — with the next season’s schedule uncertain and a world facing many challenges — when having a large welcoming mat to outsiders is one of the clearest ways possible to put points on the local scoreboard.

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