So you want to work in the NBA—specifically, in basketball operations—but you have no formal experience with the game itself. You might've played, but probably not at a high level, be it collegiately or professionally. You've watched plenty of basketball, be it on TV or in person, but you'd never count that as scouting experience. You've dunked a basketball...on a nine-foot rim...with a child-sized ball.
Never fear, hoops head. There are employment opportunities in the Association for you yet, so long as you're passionate about the sport and you have a solid understanding of its dynamics.
And you've worked on Wall Street.
At least, that's what Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey seemed to suggest in a recent interview with Scott Soshnick of Bloomberg News. As of early November, the man often referred to by Grantland's Bill Simmons as "Dork Elvis" was looking to fill no fewer than two positions in the Rockets' basketball operations department: one as an analyst and another as an intern.
Per Soshnick, the gigs would pay between $25,000 and $70,000 per annum, depending on the recipient's experience. That's a solid starting salary for the average layperson, but a massive pay cut for any whiz kid already entrenched in the financial sector.
The assumption, then, is that whoever would give up a big salary in New York City for a more middle-class wage in Houston would do so for the love of the game...or out of a distaste for the fast-and-furious lifestyle inherent in the financial sector. As Morey noted:
It could be a blog, or maybe they’re using their free time to make themselves smarter in sports. Combine that with success on Wall Street and you’ve got a great candidate.
Think Trey Kerby crossed with Gordon Gecko, or Ethan Strauss with Chris Varick.
Why Wall Street, you ask? Simple, to hear Morey tell it:
Wall Street folks are great at forecasting, at using objective evidence in decision making. And they’re often overworked and miserable. The smart ones figure out it might not be worth it.
See, in a sector as latent with risk as is high finance, the smart ones go to great lengths to make sure they're making the right moves in any situation. Gut and intuition haven't been eschewed entirely, but rather have been expounded upon by statistics and other analytical data that can and often do help to forecast the future.
Such forecasts and pro/con judgments are part and parcel of the daily operations of an NBA franchise. Whether it's preparing for tonight's matchup, tomorrow's trade talk or NBA draft deliberations thereafter, organizations could always use a bit of objective analysis to complement, if not influence, their more subjective notions about a certain situation.
Basketball and finance may be disparate sectors by nature, but both rely on sound decision making to succeed. This isn't to suggest that Wall Street traders necessarily make better choices than their NBA counterparts; if anything, the economic downturn in America since 2008 would suggest otherwise.
But those in finance are, by and large, more privy to and less wary of the influence of the scientific method on their craft. Many in the NBA, particularly ex-players like Philadelphia 76ers coach Doug Collins and Cleveland Cavaliers coach Byron Scott, have shown different degrees of disdain for number-crunching on the whole or simply as a sole basis for decision making.
The same could be said of just about any professional sport, though. It would seem that those who played the game (i.e. jocks) cast a skeptic eye toward those who didn't (i.e. nerds) but would deign to tell them what to do and/or encroach upon their domain.
But the times, they are a-changin'. Where once Oakland A's GM Billy Beane was a pariah for attempting to exploit market inefficiencies with computational tactics, his "Moneyball" approach is now nearly par for the course in Major League Baseball and has even spawned a Brad Pitt flick.
A similar tide is turning in the NBA, albeit at a snail's pace. The Dallas Mavericks employ an extensive analytical department to sift through data pertaining to strategies both on the court and in the front office. The Boston Celtics and the Cavs have been in on it too, and nearly every organization has dabbled in advanced stats to some extent.
And of course, the Rockets, at Morey's behest, have been at the forefront of the numbers revolution in basketball. They've even gone so far as to display "Four Factors" stats on the scoreboard at the Toyota Center during games.
You can be a part of the movement too if you know a thing or two about hoops, analytics and the intersection between the two. You'd better act quickly, though. The Rockets have already fielded upward of 1,100 resumes, with approximately 20 percent of them coming from the financial sector. Something tells me there are at least two highly qualified applicants among them.
No statistical proof of that. Just a hunch.
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