Altman and Wong Enjoying New Jobs in NBA
Contact: Matthew Hart
AMHERST, Mass. -- As the 2012-13 NBA season gets set to tip off, a pair of former Lord Jeffs are busy starting new jobs in NBA front offices. Amherst Sports Information recently caught up with former assistant coach Koby Altman and guard Glenn Wong '09.
Altman was hired by the Cleveland Cavaliers in August to serve as Pro Personnel Manager, coordinating the team’s domestic professional scouting efforts. A graduate of Middlebury, Altman served as an assistant coach for Amherst for the 2007-08 and 2008-09 seasons, helping head coach David Hixon ’75 lead the Jeffs to the National Championship game in his first year aboard while also earning his Master’s in Sports Management at UMass. He has since served as an assistant at Southern Illinois and, most recently, Columbia, where the Brooklyn native led the Lions’ developmental basketball program for the past two years while spending his summers assisting various youth national teams for USA Basketball.
Wong recently began working for the Oklahoma City Thunder as a video analyst for the club’s minor league operations staff. A four-year contributor for the Jeffs, Wong played for Amherst's 2006-07 National Champion team and the 2007-08 National Runner-up squad. Adding depth for Hixon at guard, he appeared in a career-best 24 games as a senior in 2008-09, posting a .434 field goal percentage and a .412 mark from 3-point range. After graduation, Wong played professionally in Ireland, competing with the Tolka Rovers and UL Eagles then captaining the Dublin Thunder while earning an MBA at Dublin Business School. He also has extensive experience working for USA Basketball.
In the midst of a busy preseason, Altman and Wong took time to reflect via phone and email on their new NBA positions, their time at Amherst, and the upcoming season.
Q: What is your new position and how did you learn about it?
KA: I’m on the pro scouting side of our operation. It’s a unique job in that you usually think about scouting from a coaching perspective but this is specifically from a front office perspective. I’d been in touch with the Cavs for a while. My head coach at Columbia actually coached [Cavaliers' General Manager] Chris Grant at San Diego, and David Griffin, our Vice President of Basketball Operations who oversees the scouting department, has a great relationship with Sean Ford from USA Basketball, and he is a Sports Management alum from UMass. At this level, it’s such a small world. I’m very fortunate to have this position.
GW: I work for the Oklahoma City Thunder’s minor league operations as a video analyst. I learned about the position through contacting the team’s general manager, Sam Presti. I had sent my resume to teams, because I wanted to get started in basketball operations for an NBA team. Mr. Presti contacted me, we talked on the phone and met in person to speak about the position.
Q: What are your day-to-day responsibilities?
KA: I’m checking out all the guys we’re interested in, whether it be for trades, future acquisitions, or future free agents. We also want to get good scouts on the young guys coming into the NBA and develop relationships with front office people and coaches. Basically, we want a good feel for pretty much everyone in the NBA, specifically key target guys who have what we call the “Cavalier fit.” In the last month, I saw 15 games in 17 days. I live in the airport, which is actually pretty exciting. In November, I’ll see 25 games in 31 days. Five of those games will be Cavalier games, but it’s still another game, another team you have to watch. You want to see as many games as humanly possible and I’m going to get that done in November.
GW: When I am in Oklahoma City with the Thunder, I spend half of the day watching and breaking down video and writing reports on the video I analyze. I spend the other half of the day on the court helping with practice and workouts in any way that they need, whether it's rebounding, passing, defending, or just having an extra ball ready on the sidelines. I will move to Tulsa in November when the Tulsa 66ers of the NBA D-League begin their season. I will also be analyzing video and working with our coaches on practice, game preparation, and player development.
Q: How has it been to transition from coaching/playing to the front office?
KA: It’s a different perspective, for sure. I miss coaching a lot, but I’ve always been fascinated with constructing a team, trying to figure out how we get our team better within the constraints of salary caps, luxury taxes and all that stuff. We know who the best players in the NBA are, but who are the guys of value in terms of their contracts? Who can help us out without mortgaging our future? That’s a huge piece, finding the low-lying fruit that are undervalued that can help the franchise. I miss coaching, I miss working with the guys, but it’s truly a unique experience getting to do this stuff at such a high level. For now, this is definitely what I want to be doing.
GW: It has been a very smooth transition because I love what I am doing and because the staff and players here are so nice and welcoming. After Amherst, I played basketball in Ireland and got an MBA there. When I completed that this spring, I was ready to transition to a job in basketball.
Q: What are some of your fondest memories from your time at Amherst?
KA: Just being in that atmosphere and learning under a great coach is one of the best memories. Coach Hixon gave me my first opportunity to coach at the collegiate level and so I’ll always stay loyal to him for that. He remembered me as a player at Middlebury and he saw something in me that he thought would be a great fit for Amherst. Learning under him was a huge thing for me. He’s such a well-accomplished coach. He’s brilliant, and he’s also a really good manager of people. My time with him on the basketball side was huge, but learning how he dealt with all of the great players was a huge piece as well. We also went to the Final Four and lost in the National Championship game. That was a really fun ride, and I don’t know if I’ll ever get back to that level. Coaching in the National Championship game was a thrill.
GW: Winning the National Championship my sophomore year, of course, and beating Middlebury on my senior night. I also cherish all of the friendships and relationships I made with my teammates, coaches, the staff, and my professors, especially in the Psychology department.
Q: Is there anything from your Amherst days that has prepared you especially well for your new position?
KA: Talent evaluation. I started recruiting for the first time at Amherst. It’s interesting, because in the NBA, obviously the talent level is superior, but you’re still evaluating the same skill sets, just at a much higher level. The physicality and the athleticism is completely different, but you’re still looking at can he dribble-drive, pass, and shoot? It’s the same thing if I’m going to an AAU event and recruiting for Amherst. Obviously going to recruit as a college coach helped me. Amherst helped me out in so many different ways.
GW: I believe that both my academic and athletic experiences at Amherst prepared me very well for the challenges of my new position. I also value very much all that I learned from Coach Hixon. I learned a lot of basketball from him, and also watched how he interacted in many different situations. I learned about the importance of time management, about sacrificing for the betterment of the team and about being able to thrive in long, high-pressure sports settings. I also learned that the entire environment you live and work in makes up the quality of your life. At Amherst, I was surrounded by high-performing people who all had high expectations. The Thunder is like that as well.
Q: Who’s your MVP pick for the NBA season?
KA: That’s controversial because of where I work. It’ll be a tight battle between Kevin Durant and LeBron.
GW: A Thunder player, of course.