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Overheard at Sloan

3/2/2013

The Stan Van Gundy Show

"First, I'd like to thank David Stern for allowing Stan [Van Gundy] to be here today."

-- John Buccigross, ESPN sportscaster

"In coaching, you're trying to create a style of play and a culture. Every time you make an exception, you're breaking that down."

-- Stan Van Gundy, former head coach of the Orlando Magic and Miami Heat

“In Miami, all the TV analysts -- I won’t say any names -- killed us because we didn’t have a midrange game. I felt like saying, ‘Thank God.’”

-- Van Gundy

“The goal is to win, and we’re not playing video games here.”

-- Van Gundy

“There’s no number out there that’ll solve all the problems.”

-- Van Gundy

"Just like there's a need for physical rest, there's a need for mental rest."

-- Van Gundy

In response to Van Gundy apologizing for talking too much:

“Is this the first time you’ve talked a lot?”

-- R.C. Buford, San Antonio Spurs president

Snarky remarks

On drafting Royce White:

"You were going to draft the same guy we did."

-- Daryl Morey, Houston Rockets general manager

"Yeah, but we would have dealt with it differently."

-- Mark Cuban, Dallas Mavericks owner

In response to Michael Lewis' naming him as one of the inspirations of "The Blind Side"

“Never got an invite to the Oscars.”

-- Paraag Marathe, San Francisco 49ers COO

On setting a path to success:

“Be a nuisance until they hire you.”

-- Morey, on his path to success

“Please don’t take that as a suggestion.”

-- Cuban

On dealing with the front-office friction with the analytics movement:

“You own a team; it’s a lot easier.”

-- Morey to Cuban

On the "count the ringzzz" theory:

“The more z’s, the lower the IQ”

-- Tom Haberstroh, ESPN NBA writer

"In reality, bookmaking is easy. Some of the dumbest people I know are bookmakers."

-- Haralabos Voulgaris, professional gambler

"In sports, there's a lot of correlation between stats and performance. In politics, a lot of it is bulls---."

-- Nate Silver, statistician, sabermetrician, psephologist, and FiveThirtyEight.com author

Walked into the wrong place?

"If you're looking at statistics alone and saying 'we're drafting this guy,' good luck. I hope you're in my division."

-- Brian Burke, former Toronto Maple Leafs senior adviser

"When you're losing, the sports page only has value if you own a puppy or a parakeet."

-- Burke

"If I overpay a player, it's not because there's a revolver to my head, it's because I'm an idiot."

-- Burke.

"The worst thing that ever happened in sports was sports radio, and the internet is sports radio on steroids with lower IQs.”

-- Burke.

"Statistics are like a lamppost to a drunk: useful for support but not for illumination.”

-- Burke

Analytical analysis

"It [analytics] has become mainstream because it works."

-- Morey

“The way we had been talking about the game was inaccurate.”

-- Haberstroh

"Are the league's best rebounders conceding shots to get in better rebounding positions? For some, yes."

-- Kirk Goldsberry, Harvard University visiting scholar

"Ten years from now, we're going to look back and laugh at this study, but we have to start somewhere.”

-- Goldsberry

"It's hard to be a decision-maker and be removed.”

-- Cuban

“The models weren't built on a dataset like him [Jeremy Lin]."

-- Morey

On choosing between Greg Oden and Kevin Durant as the 2007 first overall draft pick in retrospect:

"Almost everyone would have taken Oden."

-- Morey

"The No. 1 job for an NBA GM is not to win championships, but to keep their job.”

-- Cuban

On if he were a sports owner:

“If I bought an NBA team, the first day I’d trade for LeBron [James]. Then, the second day I’d trade for Kobe [Bryant]. And the third day, I’d do one of those Harlem Shuffle [Shake] videos.”

-- John Skipper, ESPN president

Kicking a man when he’s down

On the Los Angeles Lakers being the only team without a representative at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference:

“From the Celtics' perspective, it’s not a bad thing the Lakers aren’t here.”

– Mike Zarren, Boston Celtics assistant general manager

“If we can keep the Lakers out, that’s fine with us.”

-- Buford

On Brian Burke recanting the difficulty of being a general manager and firing a coach:

"Believe me, it's always a lot harder on the guy getting fired."

-- Stan Van Gundy

Business of sports

"When a company has a good year, you don't throw a parade. When a sports team wins, the whole city celebrates.”

-- Cuban

"Sports front-office jobs are still more who you know than what you know."

-- Marathe

"If sports leagues don't want government involved, they should stop putting their hand out."

-- Andrew Zimbalist, Smith College professor

"If you're not at the table, you're on the menu."

-- Deepak Malhotra, Harvard Business School professor

"There are teams that 'go for it' under this new CBA that make you wonder if they've read it."

-- Cuban

A safer future

"When you receive a concussion, if you get a concussion again, even if it's a tiny one -- it can have a severe impact."

-- John Brenkus, BASE Productions co-Founder

"Surgery is a very good tool, but you don't treat the underlying disease process."

-- Dr. Peter Wehling, M.D., Ph.D., orthopedic and spine surgeon

"We are doing whatever we can to capture data. We lock in medical staff to longer-term deals than players.”

-- Cuban

Sloan Conference 2023

On how far people have delved into the potential of analytics:

"We are nowhere yet."

-- Morey

"There is a human element in sports that is not quantifiable. These players bleed for you, give you everything they have, and there's a bond there."

-- Bill Polian, ESPN NFL analyst

"When visualizing data, it's not about how much can I put in but how much can I take out."

-- Joe Ward, The New York Times sports graphics editor

“If you are not becoming a digital CMO (Chief Marketing Officer), you are becoming extinct.”

-- Tim McDermott, Philadelphia Eagles CMO

“Even if God came down and said this model is correct … there is still randomness, and you can be wrong.”

-- Phil Birnbaum, By The Numbers editor