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Comparing NBA Front Offices & Chain of Command (Part 1)

In the past 2 seasons, there is an unprecedented level front-office shake-up, ranging from coaching changes, to our own silent transition. Looking at the last 2 seasons, we can see that 2 finals team (Spurs and Heat) clearly have uniquely organized Front Office. This inspired me to look at the different style of FO organization, and analyze strength and weakness. I've broken this long post into 2 parts: In Part 1, I found that using military ranks as analogy was effective, and surprisingly fun!

Military Ranks to NBA Office

General Staff (Front Office / GM)

NBA team's front offices are the equivalent of a military's general staff. A general staff is responsible for personnel, intelligence, logistic, resource management and long-term planning. Sounds exactly like what NBA FOs do! Depending on the team, the leader of NBA FOs can either be General Manager or President of Basketball Operations (POBO!). In General, POBO is the ultimate leader (Phil Jackson, Pat Riley), and makes big-picture decisions, while the GM works out the laborious details of trades and scouting.

Field Commander (Coaching Staff / Coach)

I use the term Field Commander, since in military there is usually a distinction between General Officers and Field Officers. A field commander commands a self-sufficient unit of combat (e.g. a fully staffed base), and is responsible for troop readiness (training and schedule), and tactical planning (game plan). Just like in NBA teams, a field commander can range from low rank officers (Major) to a high rank (General); I think this reflects the various level of authority given to NBA coaches very well. A coach may be very involved in the long-term planning for the team, or the GM may trade the star player without even telling coach before hand.

Captain (Team Captains)

Historically the the lowest level of commissioned officers, captain leads a unit in the field and make real-time decisions in combat (in modern army, this is delegated to Sergeants and Lieutenants at squad-level). In NBA, the team captain is seen by team mates as leaders on the court, and their representative to higher authorities (coach and FO). Ideally, team captains should also be vocal leaders on the court by making plays on the offensive end, and providing audio cues on the defensive end.

Commander-in-Chief (Owner)

The (usually symbolic) ultimate authority of the armed forces. In most countries, Commander-in-Chief is also the head-of-state, and can have various level of involvement with the army (think Queen Elizabeth, Barack Obama, and Kim Jong Un). An owner's reputation is tied to the franchise (pre-2014 Clippers/Sterling) and is a factor in acquiring talents, as well as team morale. Since the beginning of sports, there has always been meddling owners, for good or bad. From a strategic perspective, NBA owners have more influence than you think; they control the NBA flow of resources (talents) by instituting salary cap and draft order. We can see the direct impact of their decisions in recent free-agent activity, and the Great Tank War of 2014.

Support Staff - Engineering, Medical and Intelligence (Statistics Dept, Training Staff, Scouting)

Like in the armed services, these (often overlooked) support groups performs critical functions, and can provide unique advantages for the NBA team. Sun's Medical Staff are renown for extending performance of aging and injured players. Rocket's statistic department allowed Dork Elvis to execute a bold new type of rebuilding. I will admit this is the part of the Jazz org which I'm not familiar with at all; what is the reputation of our support staffs?

(Updated - Part 2 Comparing Front Offices)

What do you think is the strongest part of our Jazz organization?

All comments are the opinion of the commenter and not necessarily that of SLC Dunk or SB Nation.

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