Gary Vitti Rumors
Mike Bresnahan: Lakers hired the replacement for long-time athletic trainer Gary Vitti, who retired after 32 years: Lakers assistant trainer Marco Nunez. Marco Nunez takes over for Vitti after logging 9 years as Lakers’ assistant athletic trainer. Worked with Sparks + D-Fenders before that.
The longtime Laker will hear his name announced on the loudspeaker. He will soak in the gratitude the Lakers will express about his endless contributions toward a franchise obsessed with NBA championships. This will all take place when the Lakers (16-59) host the Boston Celtics (44-32) on Sunday at Staples Center, a fitting moment since he played a large part in adding purple and gold spice into the NBA’s most heated rivalry. Kobe Bryant will hear all those platitudes as part of his season-long farewell tour, of course. So will the man who has healed nearly every part of Bryant’s body.
In 32 years, he’s been to the Finals 12 times. Bryant’s departure from the game, and the accompanying farewell tour, has shadowed that of Vitti, who, like Bryant, will retire after the Lakers’ last game on April 13. If anyone thinks Bryant has been around a long time, Vitti’s tenure should be cause for a double take. Bryant, who grew up watching videotapes of old NBA games, said he once found an instructional video Vitti made about training and therapy. When Bryant was drafted in 1996, Vitti “was already a legend in my eyes.” “To have had this relationship with him for all these years,” Bryant said, “and to be going out at the same time is pretty sweet.”
Vitti followed through on his word in a 1992 preseason game when Johnson received a scratch on his forearm. “I felt eyes burning holes in my head. But there was no way I was going to wear a glove for this, a non bloody wound,” Vitti said. “It would have sent a mixed message, especially to our players.” So Vitti treated the scratch with his hands. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSSHA) investigated the incident before eventually exonerating him. Since then, Vitti has received praise for bringing more awareness to HIV. “I took a lot of criticism. But if I had to do it all over again, I would do it,” Vitti said. “It has come out now that was the right thing to do. But going through it was no fun.”
“Pat was completely controlling all the time,” Vitti said. “Phil was more controlling off the court, but not as much during games. Phil did all his coaching in practice.” Jackson also had some unique coaching techniques. “He calls a timeout, and we have one player that’s complaining to the official and Phil walks straight and Joey Crawford is there,” Vitti recalled about a certain game. “Phil looks at his own player, and tells Joey, ‘Joey, give him a [technical].’ What coach would tell an official to give his own player a T?”
October 1991, locker room at Loyola Marymount University in L.A., and Magic meets with Vitti before practice. For two weeks Vitti has kept Magic’s secret, lying to the Lakers, telling them he is suffering from the flu. “Are you okay?” Vitti asks, “because I’m not.” Magic smiles. “I’m fine,” he says. “When God gave this to me, he gave it to the right person. I’m going to do something good with it.” Vitti cries. Magic does not.