While the Lakers entered the 21st century with new uniforms, a new arena, new practice facilities, a new coaching staff and a host of new players, one constant has remained. Entering his 30th season as the team's athletic trainer, Gary Vitti is widely recognized as one of the best practitioners of his respective field.
Vitti, who monitors the health of the club throughout the season using state-of-the-art methods in conditioning, dieting, stretching and testing, is the longest tenured athletic trainer in Lakers history with 31 years of service.
The native of Stamford, Connecticut is responsible for the care, prevention and treatment of injuries to Lakers players, assuring the coaching staff that each athlete is in the best possible condition from October through April, May, or, in the event of a championship run, June. Yet just because the season ends doesn't mean Vitti is off the clock. His job typically continues throughout the months of July, August and September as he spends a portion of his summer working with players during the off-season.
Vitti earned his B.S. degree from Southern Connecticut State University in 1976 and his M.S. degree in sports medicine from the University of Utah in 1982. In addition to studying at the University of Utah, he spent two years as a trainer and teacher at the university while working as an assistant trainer with the NBA's Utah Jazz (1981-82). Following his stint with the Jazz, Vitti served as head athletic trainer and an adjunct assistant professor at the University of Portland for two years before joining the Lakers prior to the 1984-85 campaign. Since his arrival in Los Angeles, the Lakers have won eight NBA championships (1985, 1987, 1988, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2009 and 2010), thanks in no small part to the health of such players as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and numerous others. In a much-deserved honor, Vitti was named the National Basketball Association's Trainer of the Year in 1991 by the NBA's Trainers Association, partially due to his philanthropic work. Additional honors over the years have included Southern Connecticut State University’s 2001 Citation award as a distinguished alumni and most recently, the 2011 “Local Hero Award” presented by the Team HEAL Foundation, whose mission is to bring comprehensive injury prevention, medical care, athletic training, healthcare awareness, mentoring and academic support to high school athletes in underserved communities.
Having long been considered one of the top athletic trainers in the country, Vitti's services are well in demand. Complementing his NBA duties, he has also served as lead trainer for numerous other sporting events since 1984, including Los Angeles Strings tennis, the Summer Pro League and several summer basketball camps throughout the country. Additionally, he is a frequent visitor on the lecture tour, sharing his wisdom at a number of athletic seminars and workshops each year such as the time he traveled to the Philippines to speak at a Coaches/Sports Medicine Clinic. The seminar was by invitation only and included some of the top coaches, trainers, doctors and physical therapists in the world. He has also spent a portion of recent summers working abroad, participating in clinics throughout Italy.
Vitti has also supervised physiological profile studies published in English and Japanese and has written a monthly column for "Sports Medicine Digest." He has written a monthly sports medicine column for the Los Angeles Times syndicate, produced a conditioning video in 1992 called "Training for Excellence." He also created the NBATA Foundation, the NATA Annual Blood Drive and served on the NATA Public Relations Committee.
On weekends Vitti enjoys riding his Harley Davidson through the canyons of the Santa Monica Mountains. Each summer he spends time in his 400-plus year old house in Settefratti, Italy, a remote village situated in the mountains 60 miles southeast of Rome. Vitti, who has two daughters, Rachel and Emilia, resides in Manhattan Beach with his wife, Martha.