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‘Jonny on the spot’: Trail Blazers’ video coordinator Jonathan Yim

November 11, 2014
Portland Trail Blazers video coordinator, Jonathan Yim contributes in every way he can, even in activities outside of his prescribed responsibilities, including rebounding during shooting drills as seen here with All-Star guard Damian Lillard, who has nicknamed Yim "Jonny-on-the-spot."

Portland Trail Blazers video coordinator, Jonathan Yim contributes in every way he can, even in activities outside of his prescribed responsibilities, including rebounding during shooting drills as seen here with All-Star guard Damian Lillard, who has nicknamed Yim “Jonny-on-the-spot.”

By Brian Han

Portland Trail Blazers video coordinator Jonathan Yim pauses at half-court before every game to remind himself to be grateful for the opportunities that have led him there.

“I stand there for a few seconds and thank God for blessing my life the way that he has,” Yim says. “So many things had to break the right way for me to have reached this point. Sometimes I wonder how I even got here.”

As the video coordinator, Yim is responsible for going through countless hours of game and practice footage with his staff, which is then presented to the coaches and players to pinpoint the team’s strengths and weaknesses.

There’s the old adage that success is a product of both preparation and luck and for Yim’s journey so far, these words would seem quite apt.

If you walk around the Trail Blazers’ locker room a general consensus tends to form about the team’s video coordinator.

“Yim is Jonny-on-the-spot with everything,” Trail Blazers’ All-Star point guard Damian Lillard says. “If I need clips from a game or a practice, he’s always prepared. On top of all that, he has a great personality. He doesn’t take anything too personally and he’s one of those guys you should never take for granted.”

“Jon is a very hard worker and he’s reliable,” Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts says. “He’s always prepared and thinks outside the box. That’s why he went from being an intern to running the department in such a short period of time.”

Damian Lillard #0 and Terry Stotts of the Portland Trail Blazers both speak highly of Yim's work ethic and preparedness. (Photo by Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images)

Damian Lillard #0 and Terry Stotts of the Portland Trail Blazers both speak highly of Yim’s work ethic and preparedness. (Photo by Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images)

Prepared. That’s a word that a handful of other players used to describe Yim. On the surface, it may come off as a stock response, but the manner in which these players speak of him communicates a deep appreciation for the value he brings to the team. It’s an attribute that he humbly credits to other members of the organization.

“Everyone on our staff works incredibly hard whether it’s the equipment managers, trainers, coaches or even our P.R. guys, security and administrative assistants,” Yim says. “When you witness such high levels of effort day in and day out, it can only push you to do the same. I think most people don’t truly appreciate how much work is in order for a franchise to function smoothly.”

It may also be to the benefit of Yim that he has a deeply competitive spirit that keeps him at the same level as his peers and in some respects, one step ahead.

Ever since the NBA amended a ruling that would allow players to watch film during games before the 2012-13 season, the Trail Blazers have been employing the use of iPads for players to study anything from defensive coverages to offensive sets during games — a strategy that other teams have yet to embrace on the same level as Portland. Yim plays an integral part in this process as he prepares personalized clips for players to review, even breaking down footage from the game they are currently playing.

“When it comes to my job, there’s no doubt that I want to be the best video coordinator in the league,” Yim says. “If I’m going to do something, then I’m going to push myself to accomplish it to the best of my ability.”

That particular attitude applies to off-court endeavors as well. Yim once lost a ping pong match to one of the Trail Blazers staff and vowed that he wouldn’t let it happen again.

“I ended up taking [ping pong] lessons,” he says with a smile. “I made sure that he didn’t score another point in the rematch.”

Wesley Matthews (from left), LaMarcus Aldridge and Nicolas Batum gather around an iPad on the bench. (Bruce Ely/The Oregonian)

Wesley Matthews (from left), LaMarcus Aldridge and Nicolas Batum gather around an iPad on the bench. (Bruce Ely/The Oregonian)

With preparation covered, luck would meet him halfway and it all started in 2011 while coaching at Santa Margarita Catholic High School in Orange County, Calif.

In a trash can, Yim found a flyer that offered shooting lessons from Bob Thate — now the shooting coach for the Los Angeles Clippers — and decided to hire him for his high school players.

At the time, Thate was a private shooting coach to local professional players during the NBA lockout. Naturally, he was in need of an assistant and he had to look no further than someone who was right in front of him.

“A running joke is that I picked Jon up everyday to use the carpool lane, but the truth is, he was a hard worker, he listened to what I said and was a smart kid, so it was common sense to bring him along,” Thate says.

At that point, Yim had established himself as more than just an acquaintance to the Los Angeles Clippers staff and began working as a video intern for a year before moving to Portland as the head video coordinator.

Coaching since he was 14, Yim believes that his previous experiences are the reason players are able to trust him and cite him as "someone

Coaching since he was 14, Yim believes that his previous experiences are the reason players are able to eventually trust him and cite him as “one of those guys you should never take for granted,” Lillard says.

Before the NBA whirlwind swept him up, Yim had started coaching basketball at the age of 14 because of a conversation he had with his father.

“My dad and I had a conversation about my career aspirations one day and the discussion eventually led to both of us deciding to volunteer together at the Boys and Girls Club as basketball coaches the following year,” he said.

Before they could start working together, something unexpected happened that led him to realize the strength and importance of his familial bonds.

“After my father passed away, my mom made a promise to my sister and me that everything was going to be okay,” Yim says. “I didn’t see how that could be possible at that exact moment, but she more than kept her promise. I can’t imagine having a better mother. She made sure that my sister and I had all the resources we needed to be successful and she supported us 100 percent in whatever we pursued.”

That support flowed in all directions among the three.

Yim’s mother and sister would go to every single one of his games, not only to cheer him on, but to help him improve as a coach.

“My mom used to come to my high school games and tape them,” Yim says. “You could always hear her in the background yelling ‘DEFENSE!’

Conversely, Yim’s younger sister, Tabitha — a former world class gymnast who is now a coach at Stanford University — would always find her brother and mother right behind her as they traveled the world for competitions.

“Even now my mom is unbelievably supportive,” Yim says. “She watches every Trail Blazers game on an iPad. She sometimes gets so nervous that she can’t watch the game anymore.”

Yim at one of his workstations during a practice.

Yim at one of his workstations during a practice.

The familial support system helped Yim develop an understanding of the game that is valuable at a professional level and he hopes to transition into a coaching position when the opportunity presents itself.

The career path from video coordinator to head coach is certainly not unheard of. The Miami Heat’s Erik Spoelstra took a similar route and already has two NBA championships under his belt.

“I’ve been around for 11 years and the thing that separates Yim from the rest of the video coordinators I’ve seen is that he has what it takes to handle the job. A lot of these guys let the film beat them up. He’s always in an upbeat mood and he spreads positivity wherever he goes,” says Trail Blazers veteran forward Dorell Wright. “I’m sure he’ll get his opportunity to coach if he keeps on grinding.”

The rapport that Yim holds with the players now is most likely a product of his previous coaching experience — something he looks back on fondly.

“I keep all the cards and notes that my former players have given me over the years in a shoe box at my house. [It] is probably one of my most cherished possessions,” Yim says. “I think that my coaching experience does help me interact with professional players to a certain degree. The most important thing I’ve learned is that the players are looking for trust. I believe that if I am fortunate enough to be in the league for a while longer, my voice will resonate with more players. Given my current position, it’s difficult for me to instruct players… but I try my best to help them any way I can.”

So far preparation and luck have found an ideal balance in his life. One day, we may even see him coaching an NBA team, but for now Yim seems more than thankful for all the success he’s experienced so far.

3 Comments

  1. Patrick

    November 14, 2014 at 5:15 AM

    Interesting article brah. Keep up the good work!!!

  2. Charles

    November 14, 2014 at 11:29 AM

    What a great story. Hope to see him coach in the NBA one day.

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