On Friday the Lakers announced Judy Seto as their new Director of Sports Performance. It remains to be seen if Seto will effectively replace the departed Marco Nuñez, whose contract was not renewed as Head Athletic Trainer when the team’s season ended in early April, but that is how it is looking in the immediate aftermath of the hire.
Per the press release, Seto will “report to General Manager Rob Pelinka and will oversee the medical care and optimize the health and performance of Lakers players.”
Before we get into the specifics of the hire, it should be said up front that Seto is well qualified for this job. Again, per the press release:
Seto most recently served as Director of Sports Performance for Select Physical Therapy, where she developed, designed and implemented sports science concepts and technology to maximize athletic performance, minimize injury risk and facilitate timely return to competition. Returning to the Lakers after serving as the team’s head physical therapist from 2011-16, she has previously worked in physical therapy roles with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Los Angeles-based HealthSouth and the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic.
Seto’s history with the Lakers is also well documented. She began consulting with the team in the early 1990’s and served as the team’s physical therapist in the early 2010’s.
Her relationship with Kobe is also well known, she was once called Kobe’s secret weapon and was viewed as being instrumental in helping him physically prepare for and recover from playing in the final games of his career. Appearing prominently in a wonderfully reported ESPN piece by Baxter Holmes, Seto lays out the methods and tactics she, Gary Vitti, and others on the Lakers staff adopted to get Kobe to the finish line of his storied career.
A partnership with Seto, then, makes all the sense in the world. Especially when viewed through the prism of this is how the Lakers work.
Always and forever run as a family business, the Lakers have, of late, increasingly tuned out the noise and criticisms from outsiders and circled the wagons. As Rob Pelinka and Jeanie Buss have come under more fire in the wake of Magic Johnson’s resignation and blasting of the organization on ESPN, the Lakers leadership has only gone on record to say their focus is on doing the job at hand and trying to improve the organization methodically.
Seto, then, checks off a multitude of boxes. Working closely with Kobe, who was once Pelinka’s prized client during his agent days, Seto brings familiarity not only to the organization but to Rob and Jeanie specifically. Further, she actually is a subject matter expert and should be someone who offers credibility to a training staff that has taken its share of hits in recent seasons when the games lost to injury piled up in ways that directly correlated to the actual losses on the W/L ledger.
What’s unknown about Seto, of course, is whether her expertise translates to leading an entire unit/staff and whether she possesses the requisite vision to push the organization forward in a manner which makes innovation and cutting edge best practices the standard operating procedure. I’m no expert in this area and will not pretend to know whether Nuñez was or was not equipped in these areas. But, that’s of little consequence now.
Seto will get her chance and whether we’re skeptical of the process which prompted her hire in the first place — and, honestly, I am — her history and background inspire a benefit of the doubt that those who hired her no longer receive. Which puts her in an interesting position, I know.
In a way, Seto can not only help to turn around the Lakers health issues off the court, but her success in doing so could also be a small step in helping establish a healthier image off it, too.