The Lakers are a family business. Gary Vitti is Lakers’ family. The head trainer is entering his 32nd year with the team. It will be his last. Mike Bresnahan of the LA Times has the story:
Long-time Laker trainer Gary Vitti approaches final season as full-timer: http://t.co/kF3185445E
— Mike Bresnahan (@Mike_Bresnahan) July 27, 2015
Vitti will stay on for two additional seasons as a consultant, but will no longer travel with the team; will no longer be the guiding hand that oversees the Lakers’ health.
Some people are probably looking at Vitti stepping down, thinking to all the Lakers’ injuries over the last couple of years, and whispering to themselves that it is time for a change. I don’t agree with that notion at all (if you think Vitti could have prevented Nash’s leg being broken and nerve endings being frayed or Kobe’s achilles from exploding, more power to you).
Still the circumstances of his departure, likely are tied to the team’s horrendous run of injury luck. From Bresnahan:
So much has happened the last few years, so little of it positive. Vitti even called it “a nightmare.” Few would disagree, the Lakers continually losing Bryant and Steve Nash to injury, along with a slew of games.
“When somebody gets hurt, I blame myself. That’s the Laker way — you’ve got a problem, you go in the bathroom, you look in the mirror, you start with that person,” Vitti said. “The one that really affected me and maybe even affected this decision [to retire] was Julius Randle. All of his doctors and his surgeon are saying that nothing was missed, but the guy goes out there and breaks his leg the first game [last season]. That one really bothered me.”
For me, though, when I think of Vitti, I think of all the positives he brought to the team’s myriad of injury issues.
I think of how he’s worked with Kobe over the years, often around the clock, developing and implementing methods to keep the Lakers’ prized player on the court and competing at the highest level. I think of him using a streamlined splint and tape job on Kobe’s index finger on his shooting hand during the team’s run to the title in 2010. I think of the “butterfly” tape job he did on Kobe’s ring and pinky finger to stabilize the fracture in the smaller appendage in 2009. I recall the story of Vitti working with Andrew Bynum on his running gait and having the big man develop strength in specific core muscles, helping him remain healthy during what was his best season with the team.
The other thing I think of is Vitti was also so much more than a trainer. In a feature on Vitti, Ramona Shelburne once reported that Vitti really only got three hours for himself each day — the other 21 hours were dedicated to the Lakers. Brad Turner of the LA Times reported that Vitti’s day typically started at least an hour and a half before the players would arrive at the practice facility:
If the players are scheduled to arrive at the Lakers’ training facility in El Segundo at 10:30 a.m. for an 11 a.m. practice, Vitti and his staff arrive about 9 a.m. They make plans for the day and on which players need therapy.
When the Lakers arrive, the training staff stretches and warms up the players.
During practice, Vitti is back on his computer documenting therapy reports, talking to Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak about injured players and getting ready for post-practice therapy.
Turner further explained that Vitti also had a slew of other duties for the team, ranging from making arrangements for their chartered flights to making sure the team had practice sites secured during road trips. I’ve also heard that Vitti is the man who secures and hands out hotel keys to the players while on the road. (Update: Vitti does, in fact, hand out the hotel keys on the road.) Vitti is also the go-between for players, coaches, and management, using discretion when necessary and working in the best interests of all sides. This isn’t a role that could be performed without unwavering trust in the man by everyone within the organization.
From Jerry Buss to Jeanie and Jim, the Logo to Mitch Kupchak, from Riley to Phil, Magic and Kareem to Shaq and Kobe and Pau and everyone else in between, Vitti has earned an maintained that trust. He’s done an amazing job not just at his primary job, but at all the others as well.
Gary Vitti is Lakers’ family. I, for one, will be sad to see him go.
He was the best in the business. Period. He should receive HOF consideration.
The end of an era.
I appreciate Vitti’s time with the Lakers, but I really don’t know how to rate his work/processes as compared with other trainers’ from other organizations. Its long been said that Phoenix had a great training staff but again I’m not sure what metrics are used to determine that.
Is anyone aware of how the Lakers would grade out in the training department and as a result what they may want to look for as they replace Vitti?
Does anyone know what vitti does with the clipboard he’s always holding (with a diagram of the court on it)? Noting shots, recording plays? He seems to write something for each possession, then give it to one of the coaches at the beg of a timeout.
Not sure if it’s his fault, but the lakers seem often decimated with injuries, including fox, George, Malone, Kobe, shaggy, x Henry, etc. not trying to be a jerk, but our injury problems are not new. Again, I have no way of assigning blame here, but the eye test of a longtime fan has not resulted in me feeling terribly sad for a change (plus he admits he knew about magics prodigious promiscuity and said and did nothing, regretting the decision not to push for condom use)
Tom Haberstroh wrote an article a couple of years ago, focusing on injury analytics and Alex McKechnie. McKechnie’s contract was not renewed by the Jim Buss FO, and he now works for Toronto as Director of Sports Science. The company he was/is connected to is called Catapult Sports if you want to look it/him up.
The article did not focus on Vitti, but the thesis was that some teams–Dallas, San Antonio, Toronto–are ahead of the curve on injury analytics, while the Lakers are behind that curve. The Lakers have of course had a lot of injuries the last few years.
I have no idea how Vitti works day to day or what the balance is between his vast exp. and staying current. He is, as DS notes, a Lakers Fixture/Hero in his own way
If Lakers need to add one more jersey at the rafter for the trainer, they should put a small one for Gary Vitti attached to Chickie Baby who acted as pillars of the Lakers in all those years. that made this team an A-1 team.
After Vitti’s retirement, who will handle the future injuries under the regime of Jim Buss? My remark may appear as a chide with sarcasm but the facts of the matter, the bulk of Laker injuries occurred when Jimbo was the head of basketball operations. Bad omen and just a mere coincidence. It was also the time when past scouting like Ron Lester and others were fired, staff were arbitrarily replaced. Good news, Bill Bertka, John Black, Gary Vitti survived those sweeping changes.
Scoop – Celtics get: Guard Zoran Dragic, 2020 second-round pick, $1.5 million cash and says that will probably waive him.
Are the Lakers interested?
Anon – so it’s on Vitti about Magic not using condoms? Well people often ignore their Physician’s instructions let alone the advice of a trainer which would arguably be crossing the line. Do you pester all your friends who are smokers to stop smoking?
rr: McKechnie’s contract was not renewed by the Jim Buss FO …the thesis was that some teams–Dallas, San Antonio, Toronto–are ahead of the curve on injury analytics, while the Lakers are behind that curve. The Lakers have of course had a lot of injuries the last few years.
Enough said. Yet another example of the Lakers being penny wise and pound foolish. I have yet to see an article or a analyst say that the Jim Buss FO came upon an organizational deficiency and went out of their way to make sure that not only was the problem solved but that now the Lakers solution is industry leading.
Ronny Turiaf wrote a human-interest piece at Players Tribune, about his heart surgery, which was ten years ago:
“Gratitude” is also my word for the Lakers. Once I failed my physical, they had zero obligation to pay for my surgery. Zero. I had never even met Dr. Buss at that point. But they did, and they were added to the list of people I needed to honor by getting back on the court.”
Thanks for the link to the Turiaf story. A great reminder of what a class act Dr. Buss was and how we need to keep basketball in its proper perspective.
Gary Vitti will be missed regardless of the debate as to his effectiveness in recent years. He has been a part of the fabric of the team for a long, long time.
Baylor Fan says
Vitti proved himself time and again for his ability to get players back on the court following major injury. That ability and wealth of knowledge will be missed greatly. From the sound of all his other responsibilities, maybe he really does need a break so he can refocus on what he wants to do.