The Los Angeles Lakers are headed for big changes next summer, and it's not just about Kobe Bryant's contract expiring. Longtime Lakers head trainer Gary Vitti will retire following the 2015-2016 season, reports Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times. Vitti joined the organization in 1984, helping the Lakers get through sickness, bruises and injuries through several eras.
Vitti's tenure with the Lakers spanned through Magic Johnson's time with the team, into the Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal three-peat, to Pau Gasol's joining Kobe for back-to-back titles, and is still rolling in the present. As the franchise prepares for a new direction, Vitti is preparing to do the same as he takes a step back from an job he called "all encompassing."
One of the things that pushed Vitti to his decision was Julius Randle's leg breaking on opening night last season, and the "nightmare" bevy of injuries may have pushed him to moving on from 30-plus years with the organization (via Bresnahan):
So much has happened the last few years, so little of it positive. Vitti even called it "a nightmare." Few would disagree, the Lakers continually losing Bryant and Steve Nash to injury, along with a slew of games.
"When somebody gets hurt, I blame myself. That's the Laker way — you've got a problem, you go in the bathroom, you look in the mirror, you start with that person," Vitti said. "The one that really affected me and maybe even affected this decision [to retire] was Julius Randle. All of his doctors and his surgeon are saying that nothing was missed, but the guy goes out there and breaks his leg the first game [last season]. That one really bothered me."
Vitti will remain a consultant with the Lakers for two years following his retirement, but his time as the man in charge of doing it all when a player is hurt are one season away from being over.