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.