Adler was so impressed that when asked to recommend a statistician to the Phoenix Suns’ general manager, he suggested Ezekowitz.
“I knew John was a hard worker and had done a bunch of things for HSAC,” Adler says. “After hearing what they were looking for, I thought John sounded perfect.”
Phoenix seemed to agree and decided to hire the statistician, who was recently elected HSAC president for the 2011 calendar year.
“It’s an absolute thrill,” he says. “To be able to have this opportunity while I’m still in college. I’m blessed, and I’m looking forward to trying to make the most of it.”
Similarly enamored with the industry, Rosenfeld took last year off from Harvard to work for the Shanghai Sharks, a team in the Chinese Basketball Association. Originally hoping to travel to China in order to work on his language skills, the then-president of HSAC saw an opportunity to work in basketball when Houston Rockets center Yao Ming purchased the Sharks.
“I can’t imagine doing anything more satisfying or more gratifying,” Rosenfeld says of working in sports. “By far the most touching thing is being able to do something where you’re really affecting the outcome, being able to to see games and to know [you’ve impacted them]. It’s the most magical feeling.”
But Rosenfeld and Ezekowitz both know that magical feeling would not have been possible were it not for a relatively recent change in the culture of professional sports.
What began as an unpopular concept in baseball turned into a movement that eventually attracted the attention of basketball executives.
“It’s pretty well known in the NBA,” Rosenfeld says of the statistical revolution. “At least half of the teams have someone doing analytics work.”
The move has opened the door for sports lovers, like Ezekowitz and Rosenfeld, whose talents are better suited in the classroom than on the court.
“There’s always going to be a surplus of people who love sports and have a math background,” Ezekowitz says. “It’s a really exciting time for basketball and basketball analytics. It’s starting to hit a critical mass and take off.”
—Staff writer Christina C. McClintock can be reached at email@example.com.