Lakers Add Key Staff Members

The Lakers hired key staffers for the 2011-12 season, headlined by Head Physical Therapist Judy Seto and Strength & Conditioning Coach Tim DiFrancesco.

If you look closely when the television cameras focus on head coach Mike Brown and the Lakers players during time outs of coming-soon games, you’ll notice a few new faces in the background.

Head Athletic Trainer Gary Vitti, who has been running the show since 1984, heads a staff featuring three new hires: Director of Physical Therapy Dr. Judy Seto, Strength and Conditioning Coach Tim DiFrancesco and Equipment Manager Carlos Maples. The Lakers have also re-hired three highly-respected professionals: massage therapist Marko Yrjovuori; assistant trainer Marco Nunez; and video coordinator Patrick O’Keefe.

Dr. Seto has been practicing physical therapy for 26 years, worked in some fashion with Vitti and the Lakers for 23, and has traveled with the team throughout the playoffs for the past five seasons. Her resume is extensive and accomplished: Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology & Psychology at UCLA; Masters in PT at Stanford; Doctorate in PT at Temple University; Board Certified Sports Clinical Specialist (SCS); Board Certified Orthopaedic Specialist (OCS); MBA; and Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS).

In Vitti’s words, Seto is simply the best there is in the field of physical therapy.

“Judy is extremely talented,” said Vitti. “Our players adore her, as do I, and we're really looking forward to working with her side by side every single day. We've enjoyed having Judy with us from afar, but it was time to pull the trigger on hiring her full time.”

No one is happier to have Seto on board full time than Kobe Bryant, with whom she’s worked particularly closely on a plethora of issues (knee, ankle, foot, finger … you name it) dating back to an ankle injury around the year 2000. Since Bryant is as maniacal about taking care of his body as they come, his complete endorsement and full trust speaks loudly.

Where as Vitti’s role is broad, encompassing all types of different skills, Seto’s will be predominantly in the training room doing the actual therapy, treating injuries.

“Head trainers are pretty good at a lot of things and not great at one thing, jacks of all trades but specialists to none,” Vitti explained. “Judy she stands alone in her greatness in terms of physical therapy.”

As such, if something happens on the court – say, a knee or ankle sprain – it’s Vitti that runs out to deal with it acutely, and what’s done right there can be critical to how quickly that player makes it back on the floor. After that phase comes rehabilitation, comes Dr. Seto, who's thrilled to be on board.

"Having grown up in L.A., I've been a Laker fan since I was a kid," she said prior to the team's first practice on Friday. "It's beyond my wildest dreams to now actually be a part of this organization. I've known and worked with Gary and the Lakers family for such a long time that it feels like I'm now actually coming home to stay."

DiFrancesco (PT DPT ATC, CSCS, AQx CMT) comes to the Lakers from the D-League’s Bakersfield Jam, where he did it all from handling strength and conditioning as well as head athletic training duties.

"He's a very enthusiastic young man,” Vitti said of the 30-year-old DiFrancesco. “He has lots of initials behind his name, good basketball experience with the D-League, we’re very excited to bring him onto the staff.”

Vitti noted that there will of course be a learning curve for DiFrancesco, as he learns how an NBA season affects the players and the rhythm of how L.A.’s training staff deals with everything, but he’s confident DiFrancesco will fit right in.

“The Lakers epitomize what it is to be a champion, what it is to be successful,” said DiFrancesco in the D-League’s press release on his hiring. “They take the time to go above and beyond in every single level of their organization and for me to be a part of something like that is truly what I always wanted. It is truly a dream come true.”

Maples started working under Vitti when he was just 13 years old as a ball boy; he’s now 39.

“Carlos commands the respect of the players and knows the ins and outs of an NBA locker room,” Vitti concluded. “He has traveled with us on occasion, and has earned a shot at this position.”

SCOUTING STAFF UPDATE:
Chris Bodaken, Director of Video Services last season, will take on the important task of venturing out on the road ahead of the team to scout opponents as the team's advance scout, then charged with relaying the information to Mike Brown’s assistant coaches. General Manager Mitch Kupchak has four other scouts working in various capacities: scouting legend Bill Bertka, Ryan West, Charles Osborne and Jesse Buss.