It seems we are still feeling the fallout of the seismic shift in the Lakers’ front office. Whenever there is a power change of that magnitude, the ripple effects are felt throughout the organization and can sometimes take time to manifest. Be it firings or, as with Assistant GM Glenn Carraro before the end of the season, having staff step down, change begets change.
The Lakers saw more of that on Tuesday with a key member of their training staff.
After six seasons as the Lakers head strength and conditioning coach, Tim DiFrancesco resigned from the team today, sources tell ESPN.
— Baxter Holmes (@BaxterHolmes) May 3, 2017
On Tuesday we wrote about how, now that the off-season has begun, it is a good time to remember that it is not only the players who need to make changes and improve for next season. The coaches and front office also need to find ways to take a step forward and get better in order to build the best Lakers’ team they can.
I won’t pretend to know whether DiFrancesco departing will end up being a good thing for the Lakers. At least one league source doesn’t think that’s the case, however.
League source on DiFrancesco's departure: "They just lost their best asset downstairs [in the training room]." https://t.co/m4cpYQQpQu
— Baxter Holmes (@BaxterHolmes) May 3, 2017
DiFrancesco clearly has supporters. This past summer several of the team’s young players formed a “Breakfast Club” for early morning workouts led by DiFrancesco. Obviously credit is due to the players for having a hunger to improve and for putting in the work, but DiFrancesco was there every step of the way to help shape the tenor and tone of those workouts and to maintain buy-in. It speaks to his relationships with the players and their trust in him that they would turn to him rather than seek outside guidance on their off-season regiment.
That story also features anecdotes about DiFrancesco’s commitment, sighting the example of him traveling to Louisville last summer to work with D’Angelo Russell in order to avoid not missing workouts. Maybe that’s the norm across the league, but I believe it’s that type of connection with the players that cultivates a culture of work and trust which leads to positive results.
With that level of commitment, then, one has to wonder where things changed to the point that DiFrancesco determined resignation was the better option than staying on with the team. Of course we’ll never know the entire story, but as noted above and in ways which I would imagine mirror how Carraro came to his decision, there may have been some writing on the wall for DiFrancesco.
After all, consider that since the season ended we’ve seen Magic Johnson go on the record with comments about the players’ needing to improve their conditioning, specifically noting that too many players’ body fat percentages were too high. Beyond that, during his exit interview, Rob Pelinka discussed his desire to bring on a “wellness coordinator” who would oversee areas of the players’ health, including nutrition and sleep habits. Any person in this role would, seemingly, have to work closely with DiFrancesco who, over his six years with the team, has taken a big role in the nutrition of the players by promoting their intake of grass-fed beef, bone broth, and post-game chocolate milk.
I do not want to imply that DiFrancesco would not want to work with new people or that comments made by Johnson drove him away. I don’t know what has happened and unless DiFrancesco decides he wants to explain his reasons for resigning to us, we’ll probably never know the full story. That said, I think the above does highlight what happens when organizations make changes at the top of the decision making tree. Those new people have their own ideas about the direction of the team and when you’re evaluating your own position relative to that direction, you may not always see a match.
Again, I’m not pretending to know this is what happened with DiFrancesco. But, if that was the case, it would not surprise me.
What I do know, though, is that the Lakers just lost their strength and conditioning coach of six years. They lost a person with massive influence in the day to day operations and function of their players in areas related to their diets and optimizing how their bodies perform on the court. Finding a top flight replacement for that person is now a major priority. And, like we wrote on Tuesday, is an opportunity for the team to take a step forward and improve — even if, as the league source Holmes quoted notes, the bar was already high with DiFrancesco.