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The Game Within the Game: Life as an NBA Video Coordinator

Becoming an NBA video coordinator takes a lot more than a love for the game and critical thinking. 

Jarrod Barnes

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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.   

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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.

SEE MORE: How to Master the First Month in a New Sports Business Job

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.

Become Multidimensional

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.

“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.

Jarrod Barnes has served in athletics administration at Clemson University and is also a former Defensive Back's coach at Ohio State University, where he worked directly with coach Urban Meyer and Greg Schiano. Jarrod was a two-year letterman and first ever Ohio State football player to pursue a Ph.D. while on the active roster. Jarrod currently resides in Charlotte, NC and works with Rise Sports Advisors, a brand management firm for professional athletes and also runs Prime U, a talent & leadership training company for collegiate student-athletes and young professionals. Jarrod has been widely recognized by Who’s Who Magazine, ESPN, Fox Sports and The Big Ten Network as a top up-and-coming young professional. Jarrod can be reached at Jarrod@frntofficesport.com

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A Coffee Bean Analogy Helped Build Damon West Into an Inspirational Speaker

Damon West’s story of warning and hope captivates audiences across the country, including Clemson football head coach Dabo Swinney.

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Photo via Damon West

Damon West is like a coffee bean.

He wants everyone else to be like a coffee bean too, as he travels the country speaking to teams, schools and organizations. West isn’t like most speakers. To travel out of his home state of Texas to his many engagements, West has to get approval from his parole officer.

The former University of North Texas quarterback was sentenced to 65 years in prison in 2009 for a long series of meth-influenced burglary, but was paroled after seven years.

“My life can be a warning —and hope — for those who need it,” West said.

In March, West will release his first book, “The Change Agent: How a Former College QB Sentenced to Life in Prison Transformed His World.”

West gives a lot of credit to Clemson football head coach Dabo Swinney, who took to the story immediately after hearing it and helped spread his name to other major programs.

READ MORE: ‘The Breeze of Opportunity is Always Blowing’

“Damon has a powerful story of what can happen and how quickly things can escalate when a person succumbs to drugs,” Swinney said. “His message and delivery capture his audience. At the end of the day, life is about using our experiences to help others.

“Damon is passionate about telling his story and helping others make better decisions.”

After listening to West speak, Swinney texted his coaching peer, Nick Saban, about the speech. Three weeks later, West was in Tuscaloosa speaking to the Alabama football team.

Growing up in Port Arthur, Texas, West’s parents kept him in integrated schools in a time white flight was expected. And despite a happy family life, at nine years old, West had what he called an activating event which caused him to turn to chemicals, like alcohol and drugs.

“But, man, I could throw a football,” West said. “With that ability came a lot of breaks in life.”

He was recruited by a lot of schools — like Florida State, University of Miami (Fla.), and Georgia — as a three-year starter at a major Texas high school. But standing shorter than 6-feet tall, most were reluctant to offer the scholarship in the 1990s.

North Texas did.

West became the starter during his redshirt sophomore year, throwing a touchdown against No. 2 Arizona State. His second game, he separated his shoulder and never played again.

After graduating in 1999, West worked in politics and then as a stockbroker, which is where a co-worker introduced him to meth.

“I gave everything up for that drug,” he said, explaining he had to eventually feed the habit by burglarizing homes.

Eventually, the Dallas Police Department SWAT Team caught up to him. Following his sentencing, his parents told him he had a debt to pay beyond the prison sentence.

“We gave you all the love and support to be anything and you chose this,” his mother told him. “You’re not getting into white hate groups and you’re not getting tattoos.”

He agreed, but didn’t know what he had agreed to. As he got to the holding cell, he asked cell mates who’d been to prison what it was like. They all said to get into a gang and make things easy.

But an older African-American man West only knows as “Mr. Jackson” told him to keep the promise to his mother, but understand that prison is all about race. He’d have to fight the white gangs first, then the black gangs. If he did that successfully, he’d earn the right to walk alone.

“No one is that good to win all the fights in life,” West said. “You have to get back up and keep fighting. Don’t ever turn down a fight and don’t ever not get up.”

Mr. Jackson is where West learned about being a coffee bean. He told West to imagine prison as a boiling pot of water and three things that go in: carrot, egg and coffee bean.

A carrot turns soft. An egg turns hard on the inside. A coffee bean, it changes the name of water to coffee. The smallest item of the three has the power to change the atmosphere of the pot.

“No matter who you are, big or small, you can change the entire atmosphere around you,” West said. “I survived one of the hardest places to do time; not just survived, but thrived. Anyone can conquer any problem they have.”

In prison, West went through hell. He first fought the white gangs. Then he took on the black gangs, meeting them on the basketball court. After every game, they’d shoot for teams, and in one game, he jumped on the ball. He made his shot. The players didn’t like it and wouldn’t pass to him and gave him everything they could, essentially 9-on-1. But he kept coming back. Within six days, he had proven his toughness, his perseverance and his place on the court and his right to walk alone.

“You can’t just imagine how uncomfortable it was for me, but how uncomfortable it was for them,” West said. “But everyone made a change.”

READ MORE: How to Break Into a Career as a Creative Storyteller

Seven years and three months into his 65-year sentence, he earned parole and knew he had to give back and spread the life lessons he learned. He’s sober now and works at Provost Umphrey Law Firm in Beaumont, Texas.

He started speaking at Lamar University and has quickly spread across college football with Clemson, Alabama, Michigan State, Pitt, Texas A&M, Georgia, Miami, Oregon and many more.

“For some reason, I came out the other side (of prison); my purpose is to go out and find people to help,” West said. “People get different things from the story. I changed the atmosphere positively around me, and everyone has that power, but it’s a choice.

“We all have choices.”

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Inside the Life of Allison Galer, One of the WNBA’s Most Prominent Agents

Since starting her own sports agency at age 22, Allison Galer has climbed to the top of her field, working as an agent to big names like Lisa Leslie.

Bailey Knecht

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Allison Galer (second from the right) has become one of the most prominent WNBA agents. (Photo via Allison Galer)

One day, she’s in Los Angeles watching the Connecticut Sun’s Chiney Ogwumike hit a game-winning layup against the Sparks. Another day, she’s touring the Great Wall of China with the Atlanta Dream’s Elizabeth Williams. Another day, she’s in Prague watching the New York Liberty’s Amanda Zahui dominate in the EuroLeague. And on another day, she’s in Portland at the Adidas headquarters with the Sparks’ Chelsea Gray.

As an agent for some of the WNBA’s top players, Allison Galer’s work is both widespread and nonstop.

“I’m always on the phone with people or at games, traveling where my clients are and where the business is… I’ve tried to do the right things to build in the best way,” Galer said.

Galer received her undergraduate degree from Brown University and then launched her own agency called Disrupt the Game at just 22 years old. She was admitted to the California State Bar after getting her law degree at UCLA and is a licensed WNBA agent and FIBA agent — all before the age of 29.

“I approach it as more of a leg up than anything,” Galer said of her relatively young age. “I can relate to clients… I’ve tried to alleviate any concerns about my age by hustling, being proactive and building my business.”

READ MORE: WNBA Finds Success Through Creative Partnerships

Much of Galer’s success stems from a passion for basketball and her deep roots in the sport. Her uncle, Lon Rosen, is the EVP and CMO of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and was the longtime agent to Magic Johnson. He frequently brought her along to Lakers games and events, where Galer took advantage of the opportunity to meet people and make a good impression.

Galer’s networking drive led to an internship with the Sparks when she was in high school, which introduced a new passion for her.

“I attended the inaugural WNBA game when I was seven and a half, but I didn’t really grow up following it,” she said. “When I got exposed to the WNBA my senior year of high school, meeting personnel and developing an understanding of the league, it definitely intrigued me, especially because of my playing background.”

She went on to play basketball for a year at Brown, but decided to put her focus toward a different side of the sport. After working for companies like Fox Sports Net, Lagardere Unlimited and RaptorAccelerator, she knew what path she wanted to take.

“Playing basketball has always been a big part of my life, but I always knew my future would be on the business side of it,” she said.

So even before she attended law school, Galer founded Disrupt the Game, a full-service agency of sports and entertainment talent that focuses on contract negotiations, marketing and endorsements, broadcasting, speaking engagements, and public relations.

“If you can do it yourself, why not bet on yourself?” she said. “If you know you can help people, feel confident enough to get them to trust that you are working for them, and have their best interests at heart, bet on yourself. I’m confident, but I don’t pretend that I know all of answers. I have really hustled, picked the brains of my uncle and the many people I’ve built relationships within the business. Any questions I have, I always ask.”

Galer’s hard work has paid off — her impressive client list includes names like Hall of Famer Lisa Leslie, Alexis Jones of the Minnesota Lynx, Monique Billings of the Atlanta Dream and Kelsey Mitchell of the Indiana Fever, in addition to Williams, Zahui, Gray and Ogwumike.

“I think I have a unique relationship with each of my clients — it all depends on their needs and what they’re looking for,” Galer said. “Lisa met me when I was an intern with the Sparks. We built a relationship, we knew some of the same people. She took a chance on me because she wanted someone who she would be a priority for and would work hard for her… For Chiney, it’s important to have someone in lockstep with her, and that’s what I am with her. We are always hustling, planning, building together, with me trying to push her both on and off the court.”

READ MORE: How Katy Winge Blazed Her Way to an Analyst Position with the Nuggets

“Allison is one of the rare people in the industry that’s young, motivated, self-made and a woman,” said Ogwumike, who is also an ESPN NBA analyst. “We’re like teammates, learning at the same time. Because she played ball, she understands the aspirations that women ball players have. Because she’s young, she can help us navigate our lives and guide us and keep everything in balance.”

Throughout her time in the industry, Galer has seen many of her players come back from extensive injuries, including Ogwumike, Gray, Jacki Gemelos and Jillian Alleyne.

“A lot of my job is helping people — if I wasn’t helping people every day, I wouldn’t like what I did,” she said. “I’m there for my clients for their triumphs and through their adversities.”

One challenge of working in the WNBA, specifically, is that the work doesn’t end once the season concludes. Many WNBA players also compete overseas in the offseason, so Galer makes it a point of watching them play in person.

“Being overseas with my clients is pretty powerful,” she said. “A lot of people have no idea what these women go through overseas — the living conditions, extensive travel, language barriers. If I can’t go somewhere and spend a couple days there, how can I send my clients there?”

Galer also knows from personal experience that forming connections and relationships is crucial in the sports industry. Part of that includes helping her players build connections that will further their careers after they retire from playing.

“I want my clients to meet people and be dedicated to bettering themselves,” Galer said. “They are smart, articulate women, and they’re super impressive, but it takes that in-person interaction. The more people they meet and the more relationships they build, the better they’ll be now, and in the future, especially in areas they want to go in.”

Galer continues to take steps to expand her own repertoire, as well. In addition to her full slate as an agent, Galer and Disrupt the Game represent two sports brands — Chance Athletics and AllNet Shooter.

Even with all of her projects and ventures, Galer values her clients and the relationships she’s built with them the most.

“That’s why my clients work with me — not every player is for me, and I’m not for every player because it really is a relationship with me,” she said. “They know I care, and that underlies my whole business.”

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Front Office Sports and Anheuser-Busch InBev Team Up for Rising 25 Award

April 2019. 3 days. New York City. It’s going down!

Adam White

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I know I speak for all of the Front Office Sports team when I say that the Rising 25 has been one of the most special parts of our brand over the past two years.

Late in 2016, we put together the idea on a whim. The University of Miami was having a sports business conference and we thought that if we could put something on paper, we could celebrate the winners in a way that came with the added value of being associated with the conference and the ability to spend a day or two learning.

As college students at the time, we had seen how hard our peers, and those just above them, were either working to get into the space or to make their mark in it. As you may know, the first few years working in the sports industry are usually the ones where the hours are the worst and the tasks are the most time-consuming.

But, for as hard as those people were working, the opportunities were few and far between to shine a light on their accomplishments and celebrate their upward trajectory.

Thus, Rising 25 was born.

In 2017, the award’s first year, 90 people were nominated.

In 2018, 140.

While I don’t yet know how many people will be nominated this year, I can tell you that the award is set to become one of the best in the industry as we welcome Anheuser-Busch InBev aboard as the presenting partner of the 2019 Front Office Sports Rising 25 Award.

The goal of the award has always been to celebrate the rising stars of the industry — and celebrate is exactly what we will do.

Over the course of three days in April, the Rising 25 Class of 2019 will spend a day in the city filled with fun group activities, a day highlighted by an immersive learning experience alongside AB InBev executives, and finally, a black-tie gala to honor this elite group of individuals.

While Rising 25 has always been unique in its own right, we’re taking it to new heights in 2019 thanks to the support of AB InBev.

Nominations for the Rising 25 Class of 2019 open in January, so be sure to start thinking of who you would like to nominate!

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