Names Behind the Games: Carlos Daniel
By: Calder Hynes,
September 30, 2011

How many a man has thrown up his hands at a time when a little more effort, a little more patience, would have achieved success.

This quotation, from American writer and artist Elbert Hubbard, hangs prominently in the New Orleans Hornets weight room on a wall across from the desk of Carlos Daniel. While Daniels title is strength and conditioning coach, his influence on the team throughout the year extends beyond the physical side of training, and the quote alludes to the psychological encouragement and support that is integral to his success with players.

Thats a part of being a strength and conditioning coach, that mental aspect of it and engaging the guys. When theyre down, when they dont feel like doing something, I need to make sure that they understand the broader scope of whats going on. Sometimes that means a pat on the back, sometimes that means a kick in the butt, the 6-foot-7 Daniel says of his responsibilities to players.

Daniels journey to his current position is unlike most others in his profession in that the majority of his involvement in the game of basketball has been on the other side of the bench as a player.

As a senior at Washington State, Daniel was the only player to average a double-double in the Pac-10 (16.1 points and 10.1 rebounds, the latter figure more that season than a host of future NBAers including Todd MacCulloch and Mark Madsen), leading to All Pac-10 honors in addition to his second selection to the Pac-10s All-Academic First Team.

Daniel went on to participate in training camps for the Denver Nuggets and Phoenix Suns in 1999 and 2000 respectively, and while he never made the NBA as a player, he went on to a decorated professional playing career spent both overseas and in the now defunct Continental Basketball Association, where in his final year (2004-05) he was selected to the All-Star game.

It was tough, but I wanted to play, I loved the game. I didnt want my career to stop at graduation. I wanted to give it my best to try and make it. If that meant going overseas, then so be it, Daniel remarked on his decision to play basketball internationally.

Ive been to every continent except for Africa and Antarctica because of basketball, so I cant complain. I won a CBA championship, was part of the first NBA ambassador team to China and almost made it to the league. I had a fun run. It made me who I am.

As his playing career started to taper off, Daniel, who holds a masters degree in human and exercise science in addition to being an ISSA and NASE certified trainer as well as NASM performance enhancement specialist, began to collect certifications and became more involved in the personal training side of the sport.

While I was playing, I was always interested in the strength and conditioning aspect of basketball, because as a guy not in the NBA, youre responsible for keeping yourself in shape.

With the Hornets, Daniel is a department of one, and must be available for players before and after practice for strength and or maintenance training. In addition, Los, as he is casually referred to by players, warms up the team and leads stretching at the beginning of each practice session.

With an irregular mix of game days, travel days, off days and practice days spattered across the calendar from October through April, Daniel must be proactive in his approach to team conditioning programs as well as schedules for individual players. One major challenge that Daniel is continuously grappling with is keeping each player at a desired weight and ensuring they are operating at peak physical level.

Most guys come into the season heavy. As the season progresses, the goal is to maintain and not allow them to lose a lot of lean body mass. They can lose a little bit of weight, but you dont want them to lose muscle, because once they lose muscle, that can have an adverse affect on their on-court production. Its a constant battle of maintaining. You dont want to see high fluctuation because its not healthy.

Another aspect, arguably the most important of Daniels duties, is his attention to injury prevention, working in concert with head trainer Jon Ishop and assistant athletic trainer Mark Armour on the endeavor. One year in, the groups results in this area are glowing, as the team only missed a combined 54 games due to injury last season, less than a quarter of the 226 games missed the year prior in 2009-10.

As for his contributions in this area, Daniel offers, Ill look at each players body type, do an assessment of how they move and then tailor a program to make sure theyre hitting all the major areas. You have the major areas where injuries occur in basketball players: your hips, knees and ankles. Injury prevention is making sure that those areas are especially strong.

Accordingly, once an injury occurs, the rehabilitation of the wounded area involves Daniel, who works in conjunction with head coach Monty Williams and Ishop on such matters.

Jon will assess the injury, then he and I will sit together and set up a return-to-court protocol, he describes of the post-injury procedure. Then, we tell Monty and let him know the significance of the injury, and what the approximate timeline for return is so he can know when to expect the player back. Jon is hands-on early, but as the player gets stronger and needs to develop strength, my job in the process becomes more important.

In his first season with the team, the Colorado native was well-liked by players, based in large part on his ability to relate to those he was preaching to and speak from personal experience when doling out advice and instruction.

I think that my niche as a strength and conditioning coach is that I played. I know what the players bodies are going through. My approach is a little different. I liked variety when I played. I didnt want to come in every day and do the same thing, so I have a lot of variety. I have my staples that I learned (as a member of the Spurs staff) in San Antonio, and then I have my own creative elements, which I implement in my own way.

Entering his second campaign with the Hornets, Daniel, a single father to 17-year-old Michael (a high school senior at Newman) is content with where he is and sees his current position as the fulfillment of his lifelong dream.

While I didnt make it to the NBA as a player, I didnt stop trying. Im sure no one would have guessed when I was 18 and ready to go to college to play basketball that I would make it to the league, much less as a strength and conditioning coach.

Last season, myself, the coaches and the front office were all in our first year with the organization. Because of that, my favorite memory is twofold. One, our first win was very important because we were all new, and getting that first W early was big. Second, our inaugural trip to the playoffs as a staff. Those firsts were my favorite moments.

I love being in the weight room and I love being on the court. I simply love what I do. This is the perfect job for me.

I would say my in-game responsibilities. Everybody probably wonders why Im sitting behind the bench during games. The answer is that Im handing out water. Im responsible for the hydration of the players during the game. I bet people wonder Why is that big guy by the water cooler all the time? Who is the big head behind Monty?

I went to school at Washington State University and played basketball for four years, graduating in 98. After that I played basketball professionally overseas and in the CBA for six seasons. When my playing career concluded, I coached high school basketball in Colorado. I then coached collegiately at the University of Northern Colorado and went on to work for Steve Hess (the current strength and conditioning coach for the Denver Nuggets) at his personal gym in Denver for almost two years. Following that, I took a strength and conditioning position with the San Antonio Spurs for a year before landing with the Hornets prior to last season.

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