In late May the Lakers hired Dr. Judy Seto has Director of Sports Performance. At that time, I wrote that Seto would, ostensibly, be replacing the departed Marco Nuñez who was the team’s Head Athletic Trainer. My thoughts were wrong because Wednesday the Lakers announced they were promoting Nina Hsieh to Head Athletic Trainer to (actually) replace Nuñez.
From their press release:
Under the leadership of Dr. Judy Seto, Hsieh will oversee the training staff, working with the coaching staff and front office to ensure the highest level of on-court performance. In her new role, Hsieh is responsible for the care, prevention and treatment of injuries to the players, as well as the emergency on-court procedures.
Hsieh most recently spent the last three seasons as assistant athletic trainer for the team, assisting with all day-to-day operations of the training staff. She first joined the organization as the head athletic trainer for the South Bay Lakers, where she served in the role for seven seasons, managing all health & wellness, strength & conditioning programs, equipment as well as all travel scheduling for the Lakers G League affiliate.
Now you see why I used the word promoted. Hsieh is an internal hire, serving as Nuñez’s right hand after working for the team’s D-League affiliate.
As for Hsieh’s history before the Lakers, she served as Head Athletic Trainer at the University of California, Santa Barbara for the women’s basketball team and then the men’s basketball team. Before that she interned at the NASA Kennedy Space Center as a prelude to completing her graduate studies work at the Arizona School Health Sciences where she earned her Masters Degree according to her alumna bio from Cal State Fullerton.
Hsieh, then, is certainly qualified for the job she’s taking. She also has a certain currency the Lakers traditionally covet: experience with the Lakers. 1Remember, too, Nuñez was promoted from Assistant Head Trainer to the lead job when Gary Vitti retired. So, just as Dr. Seto does, Hsieh checks a multitude of boxes that matter for this specific job in this specific organization.
Speaking of Seto and Hsieh, I think it’s worth mentioning and pretty noteworthy that the Lakers have hired two women to lead their sports performance/training staffs. Qualifications for the job are, of course, always a priority — and, in this case, the Lakers have achieved that — but I believe it’s a rare situation for an NBA team to have women leading on both these fronts. I’d be lying if I didn’t think the team should get some recognition for this, if for no other reason than I enjoy seeing these types of strides being made in a male dominated industry where there are surely qualified women candidates 2The same can be said of several teams appointing women to their coaching staffs and to front office positions this off-season.
If I have any hint of caution here, however, it’s that Hsieh was part of the previous training staff regime and that group did not have the best track record. The same issues that happened under Nuñez’s watch were under Hsieh’s. Maybe Dr. Seto having full oversight here and Hsieh being the Head Training versus the Assistant Head will lead to better results. That is surely the hope. But, I think it’s worth monitoring.
Ultimately, though, I’ll take the continuity and experience Hsieh offers as a net positive and give everyone the benefit of the doubt.