Life of an NBA Video Coordinator

by Jeramie McPeek
VP, Digital
Stefan Swiat,
Posted: August 19, 2010

Elvis lives in US Airways Center… as the Suns’ video coordinator.

For those who are unfamiliar with the inner workings of a professional basketball team, the video room is essentially the nerve center for the coaching staff and for scouting opposing teams. It just so happens that Suns video coordinator Elvis Valcarcel is the “king” at attempting to keep all of those nerves in check.

A New Jersey native, Valcarcel came to the Suns after serving as the video coordinator for Seton Hall’s men’s basketball team. When the Suns were seeking to fill their video coordinator position, they needed to find someone who was well-trained on the Sportstec video system.

That man was Valcarcel.

“The video system was only being used by a couple of NBA franchises at the time,” Valcarcel said. “The Suns wanted someone who knew the video system well and so I met with them and when I found out I was hired, I packed up my things and drove straight from Jersey to Phoenix.”

The primary focus of a video coordinator is to create all of the video edits that the players and coaching staff use to scout their opponents. It is process that possesses a great deal of components.

Before Phoenix faces an opposing club, Suns advance scout/assistant coach Noel Gillespie travels to games ahead of the Suns and breaks down the opposing teams’ plays, as well as the opposing players’ tendencies. Once Gillespie compiles those notes into a report, Valcarcel’s duty is to take Gillespie’s data and create a video scouting report for the players and the coaches.

Assistant video editor Nick U’Ren will first “advance” the game for Valcarcel, separating the offensive and defensive clips and marking what happened during a possession. U’Ren will mark whether there was a turnover, a foul, who scored and who was involved in the play.

After it’s marked, he passes it along to Valcarcel. Valcarcel will then incorporate Gillespie’s more specific notes, creating a two-hour master playbook of the opposing club.

Each opposing team in the league is designated to and overseen by one of the Suns assistant coaches. For example, Suns assistant coach Dan Majerle may manage the scouting report for the Lakers and Heat, while fellow assistant Bill Cartwright may tackle the Magic and Spurs.

The video coordinator is also critical in helping the team make adjustments during a game. While the Suns are playing on the court, Valcarcel is in the video room cutting up the game live while it’s occurring.

Halftime is usually the most frenetic time for a video coordinator. Valcarcel will meet with Gillespie to see if there were any new plays that the opposing team ran or if there was a play that they couldn’t match up in Gillespie’s scouting report.

In addition to meeting with Gillespie, the other Suns assistant coaches will send Valcarcel a list of the things that they wanted to see at halftime. Usually, the assistant coaches will want to view a certain play that has been giving the Suns difficulty so they can show the Suns players how to defend it.

“At halftime you only have 15 minutes so you’re cramming adjustments and everything else into a short period of time,” Valcarcel said. “It’s kind of a hectic 15 minutes of hell for us, but it helps us out at the end of the day.”

His job becomes even a little trickier in the playoffs. Valcarcel arrives at the arena around 7 in the morning and won’t leave until about 9 in the evening on some nights.

“It all depends on how well we know our opponents,” he said. “When San Antonio was up 3-1 (against the Mavs in the playoffs), we started preparing more for the Spurs. By the time they clinched, 75 percent of our work was done.”

During the playoffs, each Suns player receives a two-hour video edit of the opposing team’s guards and post players.

“On top of that, we have scouting sheets that tells them all their main moves,” Valcarcel said. “We have that posted up for them in the locker room.”

The video playbook that he constructs for the opposing team is quite detailed. It reveals how many times a team will run a specific play, as well as when the team will likely run it during the course of a game.

For example, when preparing for San Antonio during the playoffs, Valcarcel was able to determine that the Spurs ran post-ups about 80 possessions within nine games. In addition, they were looking to get Tim Duncan the ball in early post-ups at least 10 times within a game.

Before the game begins, Valcarcel will pass along short videos of each of the opposing team’s players so whoever will be defending that player will know their main go-to moves and what they like to do best. After a game, Valcarcel will give two copies of the game to every coach; one will be an offensive DVD and the other will be a defensive disc.

Although the work may be tedious, the video room is a common birthplace for future NBA coaches or a higher position within basketball operations.

“It’s a great opportunity so you can’t complain about anything,” Valcarcel said. “It’s long hours, but in the end it’s worth it.”

Any questions or comments for Stefan Swiat? Click here to send him your comments by e-mail.

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