After Tim DiFrancesco resigned as Strength and Conditioning coach in early May, I was very much interested in who the team would find to replace him. After all, DiFrancesco had earned a lot of support within the Lakers and under the previous front office, and when you add how pivotal a role the person in that position plays, getting this specific hire right is important.
Well, the Lakers announced today they have found that person, naming Gunnar Peterson as their new Director of Strength and Endurance Training.
From their press release:
Peterson will design and implement a strength and conditioning program for the team with the goal of keeping the players performing at elite levels throughout the NBA season.
“From his time in college at Duke University until now, Gunnar has pursued excellence in training and fitness,” said General Manager Rob Pelinka. “Gunnar is a true pioneer and visionary at his craft, and will bring a new mentality to our weight room which we are all very excited about. Since Magic and I have worked with Gunnar in the past, we have a strong relationship with him, which makes working together now feel seamless.”
The release also notes that Peterson has been a long time personal trainer in the Los Angeles area with a client list made up of professional athletes and entertainers. If you visit his website (yes, he has a website), you’ll find some good information on him, but it mostly reads as an advertisement for his status as a trainer of Hollywood (he is based in Beverly Hills), showing off his sponsorships, affiliations, and writing work he’s done in various fitness/health magazines as well as links to other published works.
If you get into the “Who I Am” section of his site, you’ll find more of this type of information written (seemingly) in the 3rd person with anecdotes about his approach and style as a trainer. For example:
Gunnar works with each on an individual basis, focusing on achieving long-term results through challenging and constantly varied workouts. He is widely recognized for his expertise in functional training and his commitment to developing and implementing innovative fitness techniques. With over 20 years in the fitness industry, Gunnar’s dynamic approach, boundless energy and humor only add to the effectiveness of the experience his clients enjoy. With a client list as diverse as his training methods, Gunnar emphasizes strength training modalities that can be transferred from the gym to daily life, from training camp to championship game. He has worked with athletes from the NBA, NHL, NFL, MLB, USTA, professional boxing (male AND female!) and various NCAA sports. Many film and television celebrities have also sought Gunnar’s guidance in preparing for roles and have stayed on to become devoted clients, making him part of their fitness regimen.
If any of the above reads as me being skeptical…I guess I maybe am? To be fair, I know very little about Peterson beyond what I’ve read today. I’m sure he’s excellent at what he does — after all, he’s got an extensive client list of and a good enough reputation for Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka to want to hire him into a key position in the organization.
That said, I’d be lying if I wasn’t at least a little bit skeptical of hiring someone who has never worked for a professional team nor come from that environment. This isn’t to downplay his work with top athletes at all, it’s just there’s a distinction between forming a regiment for an individual client, then generating and maintaining buy-in and doing that 15 times over within the construct of a team environment with a larger organizational goal in mind while, I am assuming, overseeing a staff of people who are going to contribute towards those overarching and individual goals.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying he can’t do these things. And maybe he’ll be great at this.
I will add, too, that this type of hire does come off as a bit of…style over substance? And, even writing that, I know that’s not totally fair. Again, I don’t know anything about him. But I’m getting a bit of a “trainer to the stars” sort of vibe and when you combine that with the insider hires Jeannie made in Magic and Pelinka, there’s a bit of a “people we know” trend that is coming through now.
Again, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. As the press release states, Pelinka cites that familiarity as a bonus. And, to be fair, in the real world most people get the jobs they’re in because they know someone at the place they’re being hired and were referred in some way. That said, I’d be lying if I said a hire like this didn’t feel a little bit of a reach. We’ll see how it goes, though. If he can tap into the players’ motivation, build training plans which help them excel physically in the short and long term, and maintain buy-in along the way, this will all end up being a huge positive.
Only time will tell.
A Horse With No Name says
Wow. Darius: my sentiments exactly. Let’s give him a chance–he may be very bright and innovative. But yeah, the lack of a backround as a sports team trainer is concerning. This is too important of a position to mess around and get cute with.
Darius Soriano says
I think I could have offered a bit more nuance here, actually. I will say, there’s potential positives from not being an insider from that world and, again, I don’t want to make it seem like he’s not good/great at what he’s done to this point. I think it’s how that translates to this environment which matters and, for all I know, it will be great. I mean, he’s now going to be working with some of the biggest stars you’ll find in Los Angeles and getting through to them while managing their overall growth/commitment to team goals may be a strength of his. We’ll just have to see.
Color me very skeptical. Being S&C coach is a full-time job. Is he going to give up all of his celebrity clientele to work with the team full-time?
Clay Bertrand says
So maybe there’s a chance of hiring Richard Simmons as the Cardio Training Specialist after all??????
He may be a good trainer but it definitely seems to be a style over substance hire.
Not only was Tim a strength and conditioning coach but he was also a physical therapist so from a rehab (and prehab) stand point he definitely was more qualified for the job.
LT Mitchell says
– Magic – first management gig on an NBA team.
– Pelinka – first position of any kind for an NBA team.
– Peterson – first gig for a professional team of any kind.
– Luke – first gig as a head coach.
Despite the lack of experience, everyone on board seems to fit a similar mold – relatively young, sharp, innovative, goal oriented. I would take a group of ambitious and bright pioneers who have no issues of breaking the status quo over experience any day.
Barath Sundar says
These are not outsiders brought to break the status quo, for the most part.
They are insiders in a new position…
Tar Baby says
Agreed – it seems these people were brought in to perpetuate the new status-quo in the NBA, which, imho, places too much of an emphasis on analytics and not enough on the “eyeball” test.
Hahaha. I think the Lakers just hired Jeanie’s personal trainer.
Clay Bertrand says
Is Gunnar Jeannie’s CHAZ??????????????
I`ll be interested in seeing who he hires as asst. trainers and nutritionists..Also,which athletes has he worked with on an individual basis?. From i`ve seen Magic looks to be in great shape.Don`t know about his stamina,but he has the body of a 30yr old.Maybe it`s the Magic connection that landed him the job.
I think you guys are being too sceptical. Gunnar will be very committed to this job. If your career is athletic trainer, is there a higher position to attain than being the Lakers trainer?! That on his resume is good employment for life. He’s going to work his ass off. If he’s charismatic and funny, this may work particularly well with our young millennials. Nor do I imagine Magic and Rob selecting someone unexceptional technically. In their athletics business in LA, the best people are probably well known. And good reputations (from demanding and knowledgeable clients) are usually earned.
He’s not an athletic trainer FYI, just a personal trainer. 2 different things, ATCs typically work strictly with sports teams while personal trainers may or may not. ATCs are also properly educated on things like concussions, injuries, rehabilitation etc.
On our Front Office: Yes, they are all 1st timers, but every move they’ve done so far makes great sense: upgrade analytics, expand scouting staff, pair up influencers to the youngins, focus on conditioning, advocating accountability, patience with youth and in saving cap room for 2018, get an extra pick etc…
Organizations assume the personality of their chief, and Magic’s drive to excellence (and fun along the way), will rub off. You think any of the youngsters not working hard enough this summer? I mean, one thing to let Jim Buss down and another Magic effing Johnson.
As an elite agent, Pelinka understands negotiations, horse trading and informal chatter networks, and has a proven ability to be emotionally atuned to players. He knows the approaches of his fellow agents, other FO’s, and in two visits to the league office got CBA knowledge and the #2 pick! He’s highly regarded, appears intelligent and capable.
In bringing back the mentors – JW, KB24, KAJ, JW, they want to cultivate a true fraternity within the organization, one worth joining. This rookie duo might turn out really good really quickly. Let’s be optimistic, we have no reason not to.
This is one of the most intelligent sports blogs around…and even here there are so many ‘short sighted’, ‘spur of the moment’ comments it makes one despair hope for reasoned analysis or measured thought – whatever the perspective.
Hoping that the Lakers hire Tim Ferriss as someone who can help give the team that extra “mental edge.” Hey – it worked with Pat Riley and Anthony Robbins in the 80’s!
Tar Baby says
Not gonna lie…I’ve been more than a little skeptical about the new regime – simply because they have no track record in these roles.
Moves like this don’t surprise me at all – they want to bring in “their” guys – but I’m in the “expect them to break a few eggs” camp right now….just hope they can flatten out that learning curve a little because they could spend most of next season just getting their feet wet.
With a name like Gunnar, I can’t help but picture Dolph Lundgren’s character in Rocky IV saying “I must break you…”
On a more serious note, I don’t believe there are that many secrets in the athletic training/physical therapy domain. When people in the field discover better methods, they usually spread the word. I expect Gunnar will do at least an adequate job.
Magic said that he wanted the Lakers players to lose fat. Miami made that an important goal for their players and they have responded with improved play. I looked at a couple of Gunnar’s articles and he also emphasizes the importance of losing fat. Based on his celebrity clients like Carlos Boozer, he seems pretty good at designing the exercise programs and motivating his clients to lose the fat.
Well, he is Kim Kardashian’s personal trainer, so he’s got that going for himself….