Man running across the field

Landing a Coaching Job Through Data Analytics

The radar clocked Rafael Nadal’s fastest serve at 125 mph at the 2019 US Open Final in Flushing Meadow. The opponent he beat for the title, Daniil Medvedev, gunned his tennis balls with an average speed of 118 mph. The latest swimsuit technology reduces drag by tenths of a second.

In a race like swimming, those precious micro-seconds can spell the difference between a gold medal and silver medal finish. The 2017-18 Houston Rockets made more three-point shots than any other team in NBA history with their 1,256 buckets.

The book (and later film) Moneyball by Michael Lewis discusses how statistics are used to assess a baseball player’s value, and subsequently, how a contending team could be built. Numbers, statistics, data and the science of it all, permeate perhaps all sports that we know today.

Injury cut short your basketball career. You want to remain involved and have been making efforts to land a coaching-staff gig in the NBA or another league. Should you learn about data and statistics too to get a job?

NBA’s Worth

The NBA generated a total of about $8 billion in revenue through advertising, media coverage and ticket sales, among others. The average value of an NBA team is $1.9 billion.

Spurs coach Greg Popovich earns around $11 million a year. Steve Kerr of GSW is earning a paltry $5 million per year. Assistant coaches make about six figures per year. Kristi Toliver is an assistant coach for the Wizards, and she’s earning $10,000.

You get the picture. You’re no Pop, but you know you have something to contribute. Familiarize yourself with the numbers across the league, whether it be the NBA or another league. Toliver’s salary, for example, is a product of her relationship with two teams owned by the same organization. Negotiation is key.

men playing professional basketball

All About the Data

You know that you have knowledge and skills. You can work with a young player to improve his game on the low post. Work with all the coaching staff to analyze plays and rotations. But you need to widen your sources on how you provide input that will lead to the success of the team.

Many coaches and assistant coaches started in the video room, a place where players and coaching staff review the games and analyze the play-by-play.

Reviewing games has come along away and the analysis even farther. Many NBA teams have cameras installed in their arenas. These cameras record and track 3D spatial data for every player and ball movement. These data are extracted to reveal information in percentages or success rates: information that helps coaches pan for every game.

Is this an area where you can be good at?

Additional Learning & Networking

Take advantage of training or programs that add to your knowledge. You are no longer a player, and you need to have a different perspective. For some players, the transition from player to coach can be easy. For others, not so much.

The NBA also created the Assistant Coaches Program, a program to assist former players to fine-tune their skills and create opportunities for them in the league. If you already have a good track record, like experiences in other leagues, that will be useful, too.

Lastly, it’s also about people. Reconnect with people you know who are in the game. Or create new ones even with players. As in any business, relationships matter.

About Tom Games

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