Front office people along all major sports continue to incorporate analytics into their decision-making. Does this stuff work? Granted you need talent to win on any level, but can statistical analysis make the difference in win/loss or give you an accurate assessment of a player’s contribution and subsequently their worth to a team or club?As a Knicks fan I’m stoked to see President, Basketball Operations Donnie Walsh add Mark “Wark” Warkentein (former VP Basketball Operations of the Denver Nuggets) to his staff. Aside from his Carmelo Anthony ties, Mark brings an analytical mind that is unmatched.
I worked with Mark briefly during my tenure as Director Basketball Administration for the Cleveland Cavaliers. I learned so much from him I considered him my personal Obi Wan Kenobi. In the world of sports analytics, Wark’s assessment skills are unmatched and his analytical application to statistics is known throughout basketball circles as his “secret sauce.” Teams he’s been affiliated with simply get better His tenure as an assistant during the UNLV glory years (Tarkanian towel and before Larry Johnson was Grandmamma) connected him with gaming analytical minds that used various measurement tools to determine spreads.
I suspect Wark took some of those learning’s and developed his own algorithms to access player contributions in game situations and player stats. Don’t get me wrong, you don’t have to be a “stat geek” to know that LeBron was going to be a special. At the end of the day, talent trumps numbers. However, I find the LeBron factor interesting, because it may the biggest case study of what one individual means to a team. Coincidently, I find the “Wark factor” interesting, because with the addition of an executive the Knicks just got better.
From March 4 -5 MIT Sloan will be hosting a Sports Analytics Conference where some of the top “sports geeks” (I say that respectfully Cuban) will unite to discuss the state of analytical applications in sports. Featured topics include Gut vs. Data: How Do Coaches Make Decisions, Golf Analytics, Ticketing Analytics and Sports Gambling: The Source of Sports Innovation. Panelist and speakers include author Malcolm Gladwell, Michael Wilbon, Sunil Gulati, The Sports Guy Bill Simmons, R.C. Buford and the best owner in sports Mark Cuban.
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