After being an assistant trainer for the Utah Jazz and head athletic trainer at the University of Portland, Gary Vitti joined the Los Angeles Lakers in 1984. During his time as the team’s trainer, Vitti has been a part of 12 NBA Finals appearances where the Lakers have won eight of them.
As Vitti enters his final season on the bench before becoming a special consultant, he discussed numerous topics with Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times in a recent interview. One of the topics was Julius Randle’s season-ending injury in the opener against the Houston Rockets, which may have affected his decision to retire:
“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.”
After their most recent championship runs in 2009 and 2010, the Lakers have been devastated by injuries. In 2013, Steve Nash suffered a leg injury in the second game of the season that eventually forced him to retire. In addition, as the Lakers were making their push for the playoffs, Kobe Bryant suffered an Achilles rupture and has struggled to remain healthy since.
With players being lost for numerous games or even entire seasons like Randle these past couple of years, it has been a difficult period for Vitti and the training staff. As the new season approaches, the team can only hope their players remain relatively healthy and competitive in the difficult Western Conference.