One week to close contact with the NBA: from training camps to franchise headquarters to championship games in some of the most beautiful and famous arenas in the world. A full immersion that two young and important figures for Varese basketball have experienced in recent days Federico Bellotto and Matteo Jemoli the assistants, respectively, of Luis Scola and Michael Arcieri.
Born as a holiday with the idea of watching a few games, Bellotto and Jemoli’s trip was turned into a thorough visit to the facilities of different franchises thanks to the network of contacts that Scola and Arcieri themselves have maintained in the States. The two young men from Varese were therefore able to come into close contact with the New York Knicksi Washington Wizardsi Brooklyn Nets eh Philadelphia 76ers and have also been guests of the headquarters of the NBA itself and of NBPA, the players union. Organizations that are both based in the Big Apple.
We got it met at the Enerxenia Arena a couple of days after their return to Varese, at the end of an exciting experience from a personal point of view but also – what interests most those who follow the team – highly professional training. «We set off without a precise task but with the indication of “go, observe, discover and report”».
Did you divide the tasks in any way during the various visits?
Let’s say: «Not entirely, but I dealt more with the part relating to basketball and management related to the team. Then the training methods, the work of the technical staff, the managers close to the players. I was also interested in the facilities available to franchises with a view to the future rebuilding what we intend to do on the Campus».
Bellotto: “As far as I’m concerned, however, I followed the executive side more: the management of the company, the administration, the corporate component that every franchise has and all the part related to marketing, the fans, the involvement of the people who follow the matches” .
In the “home” of the Washington Wizards
What is the thing that struck you the most among the many that you have observed in recent days?
J: “The beauty of training facilities. It seems to be in another world for everything: from the organization, to the technologies available to the training fields because everything strikes you as perfect. Speaking instead of the single championship match, the involvement of the people is remarkable: in every dead moment, contact with the public is sought through dedicated cameras, quizzes proposed on the central “cube”, distributed gadgets. Things we also do here in Europe and in Varese but pushed to the highest level».
B: «The general organization: that is, seeing how many people are employed, how they are organised, how every detail is taken care of in the minimum terms. A lot of people work for each company: the Wizards have seven active social media managers during a game. They obviously have enormous resources, both financial and human, for this kind of work and it is clear that this makes a difference to our societies. The other thing that catches the eye is that everything is structured in a business key: they do nothing for nothing, everything is sponsored or in any case brings income. And inside the building, everything is very expensive».
Let’s take a few practical examples of what you have observed.
J: «On the training methods, thanks to Luis and Mike, we are already working in the direction followed in the USA. First of all for the great attention paid to individual work: on match day, for example, there is a tendency to have very few players on the pitch at a time so that everyone has the coaches at their disposal. You train with music, something we’ve introduced too. And then it is relevant how all the structures are connected and comfortable despite their large size».
B: «I also mention this aspect: the structure, the training facility, has it all: you can enter at 7 in the morning and leave at 20 without leaving the area and this applies to both the sporting and administrative aspects. Even the welcome and hospitality for visitors is very accurate: an aspect that concerns both the fans at the arena and those who, like us, are hosted in the club’s offices. You feel part of the organization. An example: in New York we had a pass for the warm up, the first pre-match warm-up open only to a small number of spectators who pay the ticket, come all the way to the sidelines, can greet the players. And they find some old glory like Walt Frazier o Allan Houston for photos and autographs.
The training ground of the NBPA, the union of NBA players
Instead, let’s talk about the NBA and NBPA bases you visited in New York.
J: «Alla NBPA (National Basketball Players Association ndr) we met Matteo Zuretti, an Italian executive (he was born in Milan, raised in Rome and has close relatives in the Varese area ndr) who guided us by talking to us in detail about how their structure works. The NBPA works first of all to build trust in the players: in essence, if a club can show closeness to the athlete every day, the union has far fewer opportunities and less time especially with the superstars. However, attention is strongly directed towards the individual athlete: in the venue there is the possibility of training for non-team players because there is a wonderful field, changing rooms, clinics as well as meeting rooms that players can book for their needs. A real working support in New York».
B: “At the NBA headquarters we met the director of Basketball Operations, therefore the part most linked to the sporting side. He explained to us how their goal is to help franchises develop more and more, providing them with directives and personnel. In practice, the league standardizes a number of things for all affiliated companies: the team is part of something bigger. Then interesting is the attention paid to the technical rules to modernize the game, to the behavioral rules, to the use of the G-League to experiment with new solutions. Finally, a curiosity: an entire department takes care of compiling the calendar, however complicated this activity is».
Beyond the professional aspects, what did you like the most?
J: «Out of basketball for sure the ice hockey match, which I know little, which we attended. It involved me a lot, it was a beautiful match but also a heartfelt one because it was the New York derby, won by the Islanders 4-3 over the Rangers. And Madison Square Garden lit up and full makes a special effect whatever sport is practiced at that moment».
B: «We also went to a football game – NY Giants against Houston Texans – and it was amazing what Americans call tailgate, a term that identifies the rear floor of the pickups or in any case the tailgate. They arrive in the parking lot three hours before the game, lower the sides of the flatbeds, take out the barbecues, the refrigerators, the beer taps and they have an unheard-of party. Finally, on a professional level, the “game day” is beautiful, ie the game in the round: an experience that begins long before the initial contest. Three incredible hours in which you can’t get bored and, among other things, it’s impossible for a fan not to spend money on the team».