Learn how one of the NBA’s most iconic franchises stays ahead of the competition in our interview with a key member of the Boston Celtics video staff.
When you work for Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens, known for his attention to detail and innovative in-game tactics, his emphasis on video quickly becomes clear.
“Coach Stevens is a video junkie. He’ll watch as many opponent scout games as he can,” said Matt Reynolds, the organization’s assistant video coordinator.
Working for one of the game’s most respected coaches, not to mention the winningest franchise in NBA history, might be seen as a daunting task for any video coordinator trying to break into the league. But Reynolds was more than up to the challenge. His unique rise to the NBA and his firm grasp on video analysis concepts made him a valuable addition to Stevens’ staff.
Shipping out to Boston
Reynolds' extensive resume—including a student manager position under basketball hall of famer Jim Boeheim at Syracuse University, being the de facto director of basketball operations for UNC Asheville, and working as a graduate assistant at Eastern Michigan University—ensured he was equipped to take on any challenge the Celtics threw at him.
Although Reynolds was well-acclimated to the basketball life, his past experiences surprisingly didn't include in-depth video analysis.
“I had never done any video work before, so the first couple months were rough,” said Reynolds when asked about his transition to the Celtics. “I think I’m pretty technology savvy and had a lot of experience with Mac products, so that helped.”
Based on his past experience, Reynolds knew he had to focus his learning on the analysis software the Celtics used and how they did things on a day-to-day basis.
“I knew that it would be helpful to learn Sportscode as much as I could in order to navigate our workflow inside and outside of film,” said Reynolds.
After three years, Reynolds is still learning, but he’s turned himself into a key member of one of the most respected video staffs in the NBA.
“The NBA game is so fast moving that you think you see something live and then you go back and check the tape and you may be correct, or maybe there were a couple things that weren’t even in your line of sight that affected a particular play,” said Reynolds.
From the front office on down, the entire organization fully understands how video can uncover insights and confirm hunches, which is why video review is part of the team’s pre-, post- and in-game workflows.
“All of our coaches will watch our games either the night of or the immediate morning after,” said Reynolds. “We do a lot of film on the opponent before the game, we do a lot of self scout after the game. Some of our players get a lot of film after the game and some of our players study up on the opponents before the game.”
When asked to provide a detailed account of his team’s day-to-day routine, Reynolds quickly rattled off specifics of how his colleagues and players consume video.
“We can do film sessions the day or two before, the day of, or the day after a given game,” said Reynolds. “We do a pre-game edit right before the team leaves the locker room and we’ll review some film at halftime depending if there is a particular thing the coaches want to communicate to the players.
“Before games, we show our players what makes the other team good and how we want to stop and key on their strengths. After a game, whether it’s good or bad, you want to highlight or emphasize the key factors that were at play that contributed to the game result.”
In addition to team video review sessions, the Celtics also designate coaching staff members to review game footage with specific players.
“The coaches will watch film with their assigned players before a workout, before a practice, on the plane, pretty much wherever,” said Reynolds. “All the coaches have every game on their laptop and they’ll put together custom edits and go through whatever they want to highlight with a particular player or position group during these sessions. Whether it’s point guards talking about an upcoming matchup or one particular player just reviewing what’s made him effective in the last few games, we cover a lot.”
Areas of Focus
With how powerful the Sportscode software is and the abundance of insights coaches can gain through reviewing hours of game footage, it’s easy to experience “paralysis through analysis”. That’s why Reynolds and his team focus on a defined set of stats and provide video edits deemed most important by players and staff.
“We have a general set of edits we distribute before and after every game,” said Reynolds. "Some players request additional edits such as their minutes, field goal attempts, whatever it may be. It’s really just on a case-by-case basis and that’s just something we’ve accounted for in our workflows.”
As for stats Stevens and staff place the most value on, Reynolds explained that efficiency was the name of the game.
“We analyze as many efficiency stats as possible,” said Reynolds. “Whether it’s offensive efficiency, defensive efficiency, turnover rate, all that stuff.”
Reviewing advanced stats is vital in today’s NBA, something the Celtics organization has taken to heart.
“Advanced stats are obviously important to us as well,” said Reynolds. “That’s why our front office has constructed a very comprehensive database that is updated daily. We can go in and take a look at our progress throughout the year.”
In regards to the code windows that the video team utilizes to gather advanced stats, Reynolds explained that simplicity is key.
“Our code window is very full, but it’s pretty simple in my opinion,” said Reynolds. “There’s a lot going on, but we’re not getting too stat heavy. We have player, result, type of play and then play call on our windows. For play type, we have things like transition, pick and roll, dribble handoff, catch and shoot. For personnel, we track player makes and misses.”
Although Reynolds and his team provide the coaches and players a vast amount of insights, Reynolds advises to not get too far in the weeds with advanced stats.
“Our coaches look for these type of stats on an individual game basis, but you don’t want to read too much into advanced stats for any given game. We can go back and do that later on, but immediately after the game we’re more focused on personnel, play calls, and just whether or not we’ve stayed within our system. We also want to know how we forced the opponent out of their system, things like that that really can’t be quantified statistically.”
Words of Wisdom
Throughout the interview, Reynolds had key insights for video coordinators and coaches at any level.
“There are always predictable and unpredictable aspects to your workflow. Whether it’s a game day or non-game day, you have no idea how the way that the last game played out is going to affect what you do on a given day. That’s the nature of the business. Every day is different.”
“In the morning, we get in and try to have as much work done as possible before our coaching staff gets in. The staff gets in pretty early, so we’ll get that stuff done hopefully before they arrive because we’ll want to get them games right away. You also have to factor in that they’re probably going to have edits that they want us to prepare in anticipation of an upcoming practice or film session.”
Optimize Your Facilities
“We have TVs in the locker room and on the court, which gives us options to present video to the players. This setup allows us to incorporate film into a particular workout or just have everybody in the locker room watching one screen. It has worked well for us.”
Spread the Work
“The coaches and video staff watch film from a micro perspective. If one or two factors stand out to us, we like to go to our analytics staff and have them expound on those factors on a larger level. See if there’s something to draw off of.
“In regards to the video staff specifically, there are three of us in the video room. (Coaching assistant Brandon Bailey has been with the Celtics since 2011, and assistant video coordinator Alex Barlow since 2016.) This past season, Brandon logged our games, and Alex was primarily responsible for logging opponent scout games. There are some nights where we have a lot of opponent scout games, and I’ll help Alex with a game or two.”
“I know how important your network is in this industry, and it benefited me down the road, but I know people and my peers my age have much larger networks than I do and I’m still working on that."
"Video staffs at the college and pro level need to start putting together a detailed checklist of what needs to be done before the season starts. For example, as soon as the NBA schedule comes out, we put together a scouting calendar.”
Are you a video coordinator or coach with insights on how to effectively implement stats and video to your everyday workflow? Drop us a line at @hudlanalysis with your advice.