On this week of The Edge, we talk with Tom Bialaszewski, an Assistant Coach at Olimpia Milano of the Italian League. Tom shares his experience of being in Italy during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the impact it has had on his team, family, and daily life as a coach overseas. We also discussed Tom’s experience in various NBA roles, and winding up leading the NBA’s Global Academy team in Australia.

Having worked as an assistant coach with the Los Angeles Lakers for five years, Tom shared stories about his relationship with Kobe Bryant, working with him on and off the court, and the unmatched attention to detail that Kobe had. 

Podcast Highlights

6:15 – Coaching from JV girls basketball to the NBA: “It was a fairly crazy jump in a matter of like 18 months from JV girls basketball to LeBron and the Cavs.”

7:21 – Duties as a video coordinator in the NBA: “It was literally just watching games all day, everyday. It was just being able to make sure that I can make their (players) life easier.”

10:56 – Working with with Mike D’Antoni, Mike Brown, Ettore Messina and the Lakers Coaching Staff: “First of all, to go and work for that franchise, I had such high expectations in and of itself was something that you just, I don’t think you can understand until you go through it.”

13:38 – Coaching Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Pau Gasol: “I think one of the biggest things you realize when you’re, when I got to the, is how smart these guys are, how dedicated they are to their craft.”

17:33 – Kobe’s work ethic and preparation for games: “He wasn’t going to take shortcuts and no matter how monotonous things might’ve gotten. Doing it over the entire course of his life and his career, he didn’t cut corners. And obviously the basketball IQ part was tremendous. You just get an appreciation for that level of intellect.”

19:54 – Giving insights to Kobe: “It was just another tool for him to try and process, what he was seeing or how to attack something.”

20:43 – Kobe’s Last year was documented:  “Kobe’s last year was documented. We had four or five cameras everywhere. He was already into that post playing career mode, like in terms of what he was going to do and how to transition. And so he documented it, he paid for it.”

22:05 – The reaction of Kobe’s death in Italy: “It was tremendous. I think by and large, they considered him one of their own here. He was connected to the people here, the culture here and everything. It’s a very passionate country. There wasn’t a section of any arena we went in that you didn’t see an 8 or 24.”

28:46 – NBA Global Academy Program: “Like the cultural aspect of it was amazing. Like I had the guys on my team from Argentina, Egypt, where else, Cameroon, South Korea.”

32:24 – Differences between Italian Basketball and the NBA: It’s just so much more tactical. It’s a very cerebral game, I guess you would say. And even the players, like they know what the counters to everything are, and it’s not necessarily an athletic counter. It’s not just the guys you would say are high basketball IQ players, it’s everyone.”

37:21 – What type of data and analytics coaches look at: “One of the big things I look for, and this is probably, I mean, Mike D’Antoni was the one who really showed me. It was the points per possession. Instead of points per game, you know, whether it be offensively or defensively. So that’s something that I look for.”

39:54 – Communicating with players during COVID-19: “I think we might have players in five or six different countries right now.”

41:02 – Being Mike Malone’s intern: “He’s very detail oriented. It really framed my perspective in terms of what a high level or what the expectations are. To me it would have been a lot different to go to someone who’s not as demanding to someone that’s demanding.”

41:49 – Tom’s advice for people to break into a basketball career: “You have to be persistent. I mean, you’re going to fail and you’re going to be told no many, many, many times.“

45:19 – Tough crowd environments in Europe: “Over here (in Europe), there’s a lot of them (tough environments). People are vicious haha. Lithuania, I will say has a heck of a presence. I mean, I saw flares put up in the stands in Greece.”