Jordan Brenner of ESPN The Magazine has a long feature on the Portland Trail Blazers, which includes a look at the work of Basketball Analytics Manager Ben Falk.
Stotts, it turns out, was always analytically inclined. So you can see why he'd click with a guy called Wiz.
Wiz prefers his given name, which is Ben Falk; actually he'd rather you not know of him at all. The Blazers basketball analytics manager wants to stay in the background. But during a practice in January, when Stotts was praising his players for climbing from last in the league in defensive efficiency to 23rd, he seized the opportunity to put Falk on the spot. "Ben's got a lot of opinions," Stotts said. "So Ben, here's your chance to address the team."
Falk, nearly choking on his tongue, muttered, "Keep doing what you're doing." It's what you'd expect from a guy who looks like a shaggy Harry Potter, only with a yarmulke. But Falk isn't a stereotypical number cruncher; he doesn't even have a math background. Instead, he's a 24-year-old Orthodox Jew from the DC suburbs who, despite never having played organized hoops, has always been an obsessive basketball fan. He got a perfect score on the SAT and quotes everyone from Mark Twain to Calvin Coolidge. "I liked him immediately because he's not just a guy behind a computer," Olshey says. "He can't play dead in a cowboy movie, but he's a basketball junkie."
Originally an intern with the Nuggets the summer before his sophomore year at the University of Maryland, Falk worked remotely as a consultant for the Blazers until he graduated. Now in his fifth season, he is already paired with his fourth general manager, and Stotts is his second coach. Yet with his staff -- one part-timer and an intern -- Falk has maintained a relentless dedication to improving the Blazers' analytical capabilities and developing proprietary tools, the contents of which he won't disclose. What Falk will say is that before Stotts arrived in August, the bulk of his work was used by team brass for personnel decisions.
You will remember Falk's name because he put out a request on Blazersedge last year for a computer database programmer.
-- Ben Golliver | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter