Gary Vitti Rumors
Mike Trudell: How did you come upon the decision to step down from the job you’ll have held for 32 years after this season? Gaty Vitti: The plan was always to get to 62 (years old), so that I could begin to collect my NBA pension. You can start collecting at 59-and-a-half, but you get a bump if you stick it out. I had to stick it out, but I could have gone longer if I wanted to. That said, 32 years in this position is enough. I’ve spoken to my children quite a bit about it, and I’ve spoken to my wife. I kind of looked at my life as being divided into thirds. I took this job when I was 30 years old, or a third of my life until I began with the Lakers. It will be 32 years that I will have worked here, so that’s another third. My parents are 94, so theoretically I may live for another 30 years. So that’s a third, a third and a third. Two-thirds are behind me, and I’m looking to the third ahead of me to enjoy the fruits of my labor and the experiences and the memories and the relationships that I’ve had through the first 62 years of my life.
Mike Trudell: What’s the plan for you after this season? Gary Vitti: I have a three-year contract: one more year as the head guy, and I have all the intentions of fulfilling that contract, just like I have the last 31 years of being the head guy; not with one foot out the door, but with both feet in the door. And then the year after I think the title is something like “Athletic Trainer in Residence/Special Consultant to the General Manager.” I’ll have a business card probably the size of your computer screen. I think it would be helping transition the new person into that head trainer position. Still working with the players, coaches and the new staff. I look forward to that as more of a mentorship position. Just like the term represents itself: a consultant.
Vitti is often an emissary between players and management. He recently met up with Bryant, with whom he shares a longtime bond. “He was asking about our young kids, and I said, ‘You cannot believe how quick and athletic Jordan Clarkson is. He looks fantastic,'” Vitti said. “I said I personally thought D’Angelo Russell is going to be a star. He makes hard things look easy when he has the ball in his hands. “Then Kobe said to me, ‘Well, then who’s going to play [small forward]?’ I looked at him and I said, ‘You.’ And with absolute, 100% confidence, he said, ‘I can do that.'”
When Vitti started with the Lakers in 1984, he was only slightly older than most players. “Now I’m old enough to be their fathers and some, I guess, even their grandfathers,” he said. Vitti, 61, remembered the good times and bad in an interview with The Times. He will remain with the team as a special consultant two more years after next season, but his traveling days will end, along with the team’s round-the-clock reliance on the NBA’s longest-tenured trainer.
“From a basketball standpoint, the greatest championship would be 1985, the first time we beat Boston,” Vitti said as he slowly consumed an open-faced gyro at an upscale Manhattan Beach restaurant near his home. “We lost to the Celtics the year before and should have beat them. A lot of my interview with Riley was him talking about that. He said to me, ‘We need to win.’ “The first day of training camp in 1984, they started talking about beating the Celtics in the Finals in June of 1985. Riley was our GPS. He knew where we were. He knew where we needed to go. “We went on to beat Boston in six games. On their floor. It broke the curse of the Celtics.”
Vitti’s ring choice actually riled a former Lakers player. “Shaq gave me a lot of heat. He wanted me to wear one of the ones once in a while that I won with him,” Vitti said, alluding to championship runs in 2000, 2001 and 2002. “I probably should have but I never did. It’s not that I didn’t appreciate what those teams did and what they were. It was just a different mentality. It wasn’t who I was. I was forged as a Laker in the ’80s, not in the millennium.”