We caught up with Lakers video coordinator Tom Bialaszewski to discuss what it was like working under coach Mike D’Antoni, how the offseason transpires on the court and in the video room and more:
MT: As the team’s video coordinator you’re responsible for all of the edits and scouting that goes on throughout the season, but I know you do more player development work in the offseason. What have the last few weeks been like?
Bialaszewski: You do a little bit of everything. Before Summer League, guys like Robert Sacre were in here every day, and we worked with him on the floor. There’s no scouting to be done right now, so it’s mostly about player development. We had a week’s worth of practices before Summer League began, installing coach (Mike) D’Antoni’s system with those players and with Dan D’Antoni running the team. We were in Las Vegas for the entire Summer League not only to watch and practice with our team, but also to watch a lot of other games to get some familiarity with coaches around the league, what their calls are, what they’re going to run and so on. It’s a more intimate setting there that allows you to sit right behind the coaches since there are no assigned seats. It may not be reflective of the NBA game or what teams will do in the season, but you can get a head start – any information is good information.
MT: It’s a true business trip for you…
Bialaszewski: To me, there’s no reason to be there if you’re not getting something out of it. Whether it’s checking out the new players and their tendencies, players we may not be as familiar with like those that have been in Europe for a couple of years. You don’t know how they’ve honed their games in the meantime. But the good thing about Summer League is you can get as close as you want to get in order to try and get the access; it’s a lot quieter than regular season NBA games, obviously, so you can hear more. I listen for offensive and defensive calls from coaches, and just try to get a feel for what they like to do. There was so much turnover amongst the head coaches this year that it’s important to get a jump start.
MT: Speaking of turnover, you came to L.A. to work for Mike Brown, who was of course fired early in November. I know that’s difficult for the guys like you and the other assistants, but in your case, Mike D’Antoni decided to keep you on staff. How did that changeover go for you?
Bialaszewski: It was great. Honestly, it couldn’t have worked out better. No one really knew what was going to happen, and a lot of people – including myself – were nervous about how it would go. But Mike (D’Antoni) was really easy to get to know, and very early on, he began to ask me for my opinion on things that made me (feel valued). Our relationship took off quicker than my relationship with any other coach has, so it’s just been great for me to work with him.
MT: Was there a certain point during last season where you knew you’d have your job here for 2013-14?
Bialaszewski: There wasn’t necessarily a time where I was sat down and told what was going to happen. I looked at it like an audition for the period of time whenever coach D’Antoni made that decision. I felt like if I had a chance to show him what I could do and what I know, it would all work out. And it did end up working out really well after what was a tense time for a lot of us and our families. Not many of us are from Los Angeles, so that creates some uneasiness, but you just prepare for the worst and hope for the best.
MT: You spent more time around Mike D’Antoni than most anybody this season. For whatever reason, he’s taken a lot of blame for how the season went. How would you describe him and the job he tried to do?
Bialaszewski: It’s funny, because I was in Vegas last week amongst a lot of NBA personnel from around the league, and talked to many people I’ve gotten to know over the years. The overall theme of the conversations I had with people – and I can’t speak for anyone else – was what a phenomenal job Coach (D’Antoni) did, in terms of with the injuries, with no training camp, with how the star players fit together. To me, he did as good a job as he could have. Obviously the results weren’t what people expect in L.A., but at the same time, when we got it together, we were pretty darn good (28-12 to close the season) until Kobe (Bryant) went down, and Steve (Nash) and the rest of the backcourt went down. Even that first game against San Antonio, I felt like we were right there. So Coach is great – he has a lot of basketball experience, a great basketball mind, and I don’t suspect that there will be any issues going forward.
MT: What’s the difference in how you do your job under D’Antoni from Brown?
Bialaszewski: One of the main differences is how we watched film as a staff. Coach Brown would come in and we wouldn’t necessarily throw the game on and start at the jump ball – he came in with his idea of what he wanted, and he’d generally have 20-40 clips picked out before he even walked in the building. With coach D’Antoni, we watch just as much film as a staff, but we watch more collectively as a discussion of what everyone sees and what we’re going to show the team that day. We watch a little bit more game flow, vs. the 15 offensive clips and 15 defensive clips coach Brown might show. It’s just a different way of doing it, but it’s all the same stuff.
MT: Finally, Tom, what happens from here until training camp?
Bialaszewski: This is the quiet period here and everywhere. Guys typically start filtering in right after Labor Day, when you go full on for five or six days a week with guys working out. Coach D’Antoni will get to implement things in his system that weren’t able to be worked in last season with a group of guys you know will be in your camp, and that builds through September into training camp so you have a running start.