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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.   

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.

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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Meet the WNBA’s New Boss

Deloitte CEO Cathy Engelbert will become the first commissioner of the WNBA and the first woman to lead a Big Four professional services firm in the U.S.

Front Office Sports

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Photo Credit: Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

*This piece first appeared in the Front Office Sports Newsletter. Subscribe today and get the news before anyone else.

For the first time ever, the WNBA will have a commissioner. Before now, all of the league’s previous leaders like Val Ackerman and Lisa Borders were given the title of president. 

Cathy Engelbert, the current CEO of Deloitte, will take control of the role on July 17th and will report directly to Adam Silver. 

What should you know?

1. By the time she is done at Deloitte, Engelbert will have spent more time at the company (33 years) than the WNBA has been a league (23 years)

2. Engelbert is the first female to lead a Big Four professional services firm in the U.S.

3. She is the fifth person to lead the league after Val Ackerman (1997-2005), Donna Orender (2005-10), Laurel Richie (2011-15) and Lisa Borders (2016-2018)

4. Engelbert has spent the past four years in charge of Deloitte’s U.S. operation.

Basketball is in her blood…

Although she might be an accountant by trade, Engelbert is no stranger to the game of basketball. 

According to Bob Hille of Sporting News, she played at Lehigh for Hall of Fame coach Muffet McGraw and was a team captain as a senior. Her father Kurt also played and was drafted in 1957 by the Pistons.

What are they saying?

“Cathy is a world-class business leader with a deep connection to women’s basketball, which makes her the ideal person to lead the WNBA into its next phase of growth. The WNBA will benefit significantly from her more than 30 years of business and operational experience including revenue generation, sharp entrepreneurial instincts and proven management abilities.” – Adam Silver on the hiring of Engelbert

“I think that’s probably one of the reasons I was selected for this role, to come in and bring a business plan to build the WNBA into a real business and a thriving business, quite frankly.” – Engelbert to ESPN’s Mechelle Voepel

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Adam Silver Wants More Gender Diversity

The NBA commissioner states his desire to get more women into the sports industry. The NBA currently has a 31.6 percent ratio of women in team management.

Front Office Sports

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Photo Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

*This piece first appeared in the Front Office Sports Newsletter. Subscribe today and get the news before anyone else. 

If Adam Silver has his way, 50 percent of the new incoming NBA officials will be women.

That number applies to coaches too, Silver said speaking at the Economic Club of Washington.

How do the leagues stack up?

The following numbers, outside of MLB, come from 2018 reports put together by The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports (TIDES) at the University of Central Florida. MLB is the first league to have a report done on it this year.

1. NBA – 31.6% of team management are women / 37.2% of team professional admins are women

2. NFL – 22.1% of team senior admins are women / 35% of team professional admins are women

3. MLB – 28.6% of team senior admins are women / 26% of team professional admins are women

4. MLS – 26.5% of team senior admins are women / 31.6% of team professional admins are women

5. WNBA – 48.6% of team VPs and above are women / 58% of team managers to senior directors are women

6. NHL – No report done

Quotes from Silver… 

“It’s an area, frankly, where I’ve acknowledged that I’m not sure how it was that it remained so male-dominated for so long. Because it’s an area of the game where physically, certainly, there’s no benefit to being a man, as opposed to a woman, when it comes to refereeing.”

“The goal is going forward, it should be roughly 50-50 of new officials entering in the league. Same for coaches, by the way. We have a program, too. There’s no reason why women shouldn’t be coaching men’s basketball.”

That’s not all Silver wants to see change…

Silver, who has been adamant about getting rid of the one-and-done rule, provided some clarity as to when that might be achieved.

According to the commissioner, the 2022 NBA Draft will likely be the first one since the 2005 NBA Draft to allow high school players to go straight into the league rather than playing a season in college first.

Citing “active discussions” with the NBPA, Silver noted that they are still “a few years away.”

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“I Thought This Was a Good Deal”: AAF Vendors Speak Out

Amidst the spring football league’s collapse, countless vendors are still waiting to get paid for services rendered.

Robert Silverman

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Ultimately, it was the little things that best told the story of how dire things had gotten for the Alliance of American Football (AAF), an ex-team social media manager said. Starting in Week Five, social media managers no longer traveled with the team for road games. Even before, they’d doubled up on hotel rooms. The final bit of penny-pinching was the most bizarre: For the eighth and final AAF game, social was told Getty’s photographers would not be in attendance. Instead they would have to rely on “generic images,” making the job vastly more difficult.

Less than a week later, on April 2, the chaotic, short-lived lifespan of the spring professional football league, launched in March 2018 by filmmaker Charlie Ebersol, the son of venerated TV producer Dick Ebersol, came to an abrupt end. A little over two weeks after that, the AAF filed for bankruptcy, as first reported by Front Office Sports.

In the aftermath, stories like the social media manager’s have become ubiquitous. A  former player was sent a medical bill for treatment received during training camp. Scores of others reportedly had to cover their own airfare or were sent four-figure bills for hotel rooms. There was the class-action lawsuit filed by two players, claiming that ownership misled them about the league’s long-term fiscal solvency. Founders pointed fingers at one another after the debt-ridden league came crashing down. All manner of now ex-employees, from team officials to players,  learned they were out of a job thanks to social media.

The league’s bankruptcy filing revealed that $48.3 million was still owed to a variety of creditors against a $11.3 million in concrete assets, a scant $536,160.68 of which remained in the league’s bank accounts. Moreover, the AAF informed the thousands of creditors that any attempts to recoup their losses would be pointless right now, because, per Sports Business Journal, its coffers are entirely bare… “If it later appears that assets are available to pay creditors, the clerk will send you another notice telling you that you may file a proof of claim and stating the deadline,” the filing states.

But like the social media manager, many of those selfsame creditors began to suspect the AAF was on rocky financial ground long before the league officially pulled the plug.

Shortly after Tom Dundon, the majority owner of the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes, who built his financial empire on the backs of subprime auto loans, bought a majority share of the financially-strapped league, he started to cut corners, looking to pare down expenses by any means necessary according to a report by Sports Illustrated. “As soon as Dundon took over, our f——— expense reports were getting approved out of Dallas,” where Dundon Capital Partners’ office is located, a former mid-level AAF employee told the magazine. (Dundon did not respond to multiple requests for comment sent via the Carolina Hurricanes. The form to contact Dundon Capital Partners on their website was removed at some point in the past few months )

With the AAF bleeding millions each and every week it remained in existence, per USA Today, Dundon deemed it necessary to scrimp and save wherever possible including on the margins. So vendors—companies that supplied locker room supplies, traveling equipment and more—were approached hat in hand and offered less than the full amount owed by the AAF.

READ MORE: AAF Files for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy 

While AAF officials served as the point of contact, two sources involved with the negotiations told Front Office Sports that the debt-clearing plan was conceived and ordered by Dundon’s financial team. If that meant exploiting AAF officials’ pre-existing relationships with vendors and playing on the faith placed in the league, so be it. As one former AAF official told Front Office Sports, it was “just a shit situation.”

Some of the companies did take the lowball offers, but others refused to accept less, insisting on full payment. It didn’t matter. Both paths led to vendors getting stiffed by the AAF. Dundon’s financial team kept stalling, promising the equivalent of “the check’s in the mail,” right up until the moment when the AAF closed its doors for good.

Now those vendors have been reduced to poring over the bankruptcy filings. They know all too well that, despite being out five or six figures, they’re way at the back of the line, trailing giant conglomerates like MGM and Aramark which are owed millions. And they’re not happy about it.

“I definitely feel scammed,” one vendor said.

(more…)

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