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July 20, 2010

Blazers Stay Analytical

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin Pelton @ 8:23 pm

When the Portland Trail Blazers fired Kevin Pritchard as general manager last month, one possible outcome was undoing the progress the team had made in becoming a leader in embracing APBRmetrics. Under Pritchard, Portland emphasized statistical analysis the last two seasons, bringing one of the largest crews of any team to last year’s Sloan Sports Analytics Conference.

In hiring Rich Cho from the Oklahoma City Thunder as Pritchard’s replacement, the Blazers maintained that same course. In fact, in a sign of the times, Cho’s faculty with numbers–he was an engineer at Boeing before going back to law school to try to pursue a career in sports–was touted as one of the strongest arguments in favor of hiring him. From Jason Quick’s account in The Oregonian:

A day after the Vegas meeting, Cho flew to Helsinki for a face-to-face meeting with (Paul) Allen. Coach Nate McMillan, who was a coach in Seattle while Cho was breaking into the league, said he could guess Cho and Allen would bond.

“I think Mr. Allen is a stat guy, a numbers guy,” McMillan said. “It’s how he looks at things — he wants to see numbers, stats, and Rich has all of that. That’s how Rich determines a lot of things.”

Cho was a key player as the then-Seattle SuperSonics front office became an early leader in applying statistical analysis within the NBA, a development I wrote about for the team’s website. Benjamin Golliver of Blazersedge–who first broke the hiring on Twitter–pressed him for more on his philosophy yesterday.

Cho has been touted as a statistically-inclined executive so I prodded him a little bit about how he makes advanced statistical analysis work for him on the basketball side. “We kind of look at analytics as three pieces: one is player evaluation, the other is self-analysis and how are we doing as a team, and then third it’s the coaching and strategic aspect.”  Does he have a proprietary formula or is he using information that’s available to the general public? “For the most part APBRmetrics people are familiar with the [stats I use.] But it’s more than just those types of things. Other non-traditional things like shot charts and things like that.”

In related: The ever expanding Sloan Conference has grown into a two-day affair. Co-chair and Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey recently tweeted to save the date for March 4-5, 2011, again in Boston.

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