Feb 7, 2023
Athletic Trainers Play Pivotal Role in Cavaliers Success

Athletic trainers often get overlooked when thinking of the hierarchy of who’s responsible for a team’s success.

But that doesn’t mean they don’t play a pivotal role in helping athletes achieve their dreams. Quite the contrary, actually. Whether it’s a varsity high school program or a professional NBA team, athletic trainers are the ones who help keep athletes where they need to be — in the game.

cavaliersA recent feature story from Yahoo! Sports by way of The News-Herald (OH) detailed how the Cavs athletic training staff has been the secret to the team’s success this season.

Below is an excerpt from the Yahoo! Sports/News-Herald feature story.

Stephen Spiro has been the Cavaliers’ head athletic trainer since 2013. His longevity speaks for itself. He was with the Cavaliers before LeBron James began his second stint in Cleveland and he is still on the job.

The Cavaliers have had four general managers during Spiro’s tenure — Chris Grant, David Griffin, Koby Altman and now Mike Gansey. Altman is the President of Basketball Operations for the Cavs, but the point is neither Griffin nor Altman saw any reason to replace Spiro.

J.B. Bickerstaff is the sixth head coach Spiro has worked with. Bickerstaff has been around the NBA long enough to ask for a different trainer if he thought a switch was necessary. But he saw no reason to make a change when players respect Spiro as much as they do.

“They’re the first people our guys see every day,” Bickerstaff said before the recent game with the Miami Heat. “Beyond the medical part of it, when they come in the building, those are the first conversations our guys have. If our trainers aren’t upbeat and positive and pushing guys in the right direction, it sets the tone for the entire day, so we depend on them heavily.”

Spiro, whose actual title is senior director, player health/head athletic trainer, is not a one-man staff. Alberto Padilla holds the title of associate athletic trainer. Murphy Grand and Kevin Kamlowsky are assistant athletic trainers. George Sibel is the physical therapist. Kylene Bodgen is the team dietician/nutritionist. Derek Millender is the head strength and conditioning coach. Ed Subel is the associate head strength and conditioning coordinator. The seven people work with Spiro to get players back on the court when injuries disrupt their season or keep them primed for a long season if they have the good fortune to stay healthy.

“They often have to see guys in their worst moments,” Bickerstaff said. “They see guys when they’re hurt, when they’re frustrated. They have to get that emotion out of them and turn it to a positive way because you have to be positive in your rehab to get the results you want.

“They help us maintain guys on the floor — the conversations we have with them, the data they give us, what we do on off days, guys’ minutes during games, those types of things. We’re very fortunate to have the crew we have. They have great relationships with the guys. There has to be a level of trust there. We depend on them a lot.”

Donovan Mitchell put his trust in the training staff to help him recover from a groin injury that sidelined him five games last month. The Cavs were 2-3 in those games.

“They’ve been great,” Mitchell said. “Start with Steve Spiro. You have Al, Murphy Grand — my guy — Kevin, all the way down the line.

» ALSO SEE: NCAA Coaches Survey on Mental Health

“The biggest thing I noticed when I first got here is the connection they have with the players. There’s a little play hoop in the trainer’s room. You go in and start shooting, cracking jokes and have a good time in there. It’s the ultimate camaraderie piece that I think is huge, especially on the road.

“As far as them actually doing their job, you see how guys are getting back healthy. They did a phenomenal job with Ricky (Rubio, torn ACL). It speaks to them being on us about being in the weight room and the cold tubs and hot tubs. There are so many things at the facility that we have access to get better and better ourselves.”

To read the full story from Yahoo! Sports, click here about the Spiro and the Cleveland Cavaliers athletic training staff, click here. 

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