When thinking of the NBA, we often think of star players like LeBron James, prominent head coaches like Steve Kerr or famous franchise owners such as Mark Cuban.
But what about the men and women behind the scenes?
NBA scouts, video coordinators, and analysts may arguably be some the most important members of a franchise (outside of the players, of course) and specialize on winning the game within the game. As a matter of fact, Erik Spoelstra, head coach of the Miami Heat, was actually hired by the team first in 1995 — not as a coach, but as a video coordinator.
Film breakdown, statistical analysis, and player scouting all create space for a career in the NBA, but each requires a specific skill set. We caught up with industry professionals to discuss what it takes to be successful behind the scenes in the NBA.
Add Value Before Your Title Requires It
Like many of us growing up, Bryan Oringher had a dream to build a career in professional sports. After working for seven years in the NBA with the Washington Wizards, Atlanta Hawks and Toronto Raptors as a head video coordinator and advanced scout, his dream came true, but it didn’t happen overnight. Oringher got his true start while he was a freshman in college as a manager for the University of Maryland basketball program.“I found ways to make myself valuable and was given the opportunity to travel as a freshman to the NCAA tournament,” he shared.
Oringher leveraged his opportunity and began reaching out to NBA teams while still in college. “I reached out to Tommy Sheppard of the Washington Wizards for an informational interview. I didn’t realize it at the time, but that would turn into an internship opportunity where I worked almost full-time hours as an unpaid intern.”
Oringher stated that while an unpaid internship was incredibly hard, it was simply too valuable of an opportunity to pass up.
Become a Student of the Game
Oringher continued to build his brand and credibility to the point where he was then offered a full-time role following graduation.
“I would do everything I could to be the hardest worker,” he said. “I would read old scouting reports to become more knowledgeable and learn the terminology of different systems. I consistently asked myself, ‘Am I making the players better, and am I someone who they trust?’”SEE MORE: 4 Ways to Making Breaking Into the #SportsBiz Much Easier
But it wasn’t just passion that made Oringher successful; it was his applied knowledge.
“Understanding the tools available like Sportscode, Hudl, and Synergy can be a differentiator. It’s about making the time and opportunity for yourself. You might have to volunteer for a local team just to learn the technology or offer to come by and help, or shadow for a day.”
Not sure yet if you’re ready to approach an NBA team? There are 27 teams in NBA’s G League, with a host of opportunities available.
Being a “jack of all trades and master of none” may not be the best strategy while on the path to becoming an expert, but that doesn’t mean you can’t diversify your skill set.
After being kept on staff by three different head coaches with the Wizards, Oringher pitched his work to others in the industry eventually landed him roles with the Atlanta Hawks and Toronto Raptors as an Advance Scout, studying team tendencies and play calls to assist in the coaching staff’s game-planning efforts.
Ben Falk, previously the VP of basketball strategy with the 76ers and an analytics manager with the Blazers, stated on his site, Cleaning The Glass: “One benefit of the era we live in is that good work spreads faster than ever. If you do something that’s truly impressive and get it in front of the right people on social media, it can organically end up on the screens of numerous NBA employees in a short period of time. And then they will reach out to you, instead of the other way around.”
The NBA’s growth is continuing to spike and has the potential to surpass the NFL in revenue generation by 2029. Opportunities are increasing, but so is the pool of applicants.
Like #analytics? NBA teams pore over data to find any competitive advantage they possibly can. Using in-house tracking, @SynergySST, etc., we’d put together a detailed stat scout before every game. Here take a look at an example Celtics scout from 2014 (starters only) #NBATwitter pic.twitter.com/UzSwMLPrDN
— Bryan Oringher (@ScoutWithBryan) November 5, 2018
“It’s a competitive industry and good work doesn’t go unnoticed,” stated Oringher. “I would get 200 resumes every week from people willing to quit their jobs just to get a shot working in the NBA.”
Still looking for ways to separate yourself? Create content on social platforms and show what you’re capable of. Not everyone can sit courtside, but with the right skillset, you can create space for an opportunity behind the scenes in the NBA.