Priority at Thunder is following NBA guidelines, says assistant coach Vin Bhavnani

With NBA teams returning to training, assistant coach Vin Bhavnani claims the priority at Oklahoma City Thunder is following the guidelines of the league.

Vin Bhavnani's single-minded pursuit and putting in the hard work has enabled him to become an assistant coach at Oklahoma City Thunder.   -  SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

For Vin Bhavnani, it all started as a dream in his dorm room during his senior year of college. “I had one dream. It felt real and I just started pursuing it,” says Bhavnani. With a background in engineering and no prior experience in team sports, the Indian-origin Bhavnani set out to become an NBA coach. His single-minded pursuit and putting in the hard work has enabled him to become an assistant coach at Oklahoma City Thunder.

Looking back, however, fate could have taken him on a path away from the sport, when he was offered a job as a sales executive in 2004. “It took me two-and-a-half years to get the sales job after my parents said ‘Enough was enough!’,” remembers Bhavnani.

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“And on the same day, the [New York] Clippers called me saying, ‘Hey, here’s a video opportunity’. I wouldn’t even call it an internship, there was no label. It was database entry into potential scouting. It was just half a season of video coordinating at the Clippers and then I met the Spurs video coordinator and then he called me over.”

He spent two seasons at San Antonio Spurs as the assistant video coordinator, before landing a role at Thunder as the lead video coordinator. Bhavnani is now embarking on his 10th season at Thunder, where he also worked as manager of scouting and player development for five seasons before being promoted to the role of assistant coach in 2016.

Of the several highs and lows from his stint at Thunder, the first-round playoffs – a first for the team after its rebranding from Seattle Supersonics -- against Los Angeles Lakers, manages to evoke the excitement in Bhavnani. Thunder had captain Kevin Durant and rookie stars James Harden and Russell Westbrook in its roster going toe-to-toe against Kobe Bryant’s Lakers, which would go on to win the championship and complete a three-peat.

Vin Bhavnani spent two seasons at San Antonio Spurs as the assistant video coordinator, before landing a role at Oklahoma City Thunder as the lead video coordinator.   -  SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT


“We were down 0-2 and we came home to the most amazing crowd. I'm getting goosebumps right now. There was a stretch in that game in the third quarter, when we come back, cut the lead and take the first lead of that series... the crowd reaction and our players’ belief, you can see it on their faces. It was such a beautiful moment. Then we won the next game. We lost in LA, we came back and lost on a tip against the best team in the league. That told us that we were good. I watch that segment on YouTube, that third quarter, constantly,” he recalls.

Thunder was on course for a fifth successive playoff place when the 2019-20 season was suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The pause in the season was publicly played out ahead of the game between Thunder and Utah Jazz. Both teams had finished their pre-match warm-ups and were out on the court for tip-off when confusion ensued. With the news of Jazz’s Rudy Gobert testing positive for coronavirus coming through, a Thunder medical official came out on to the court to talk to the referees. After a long consultation, the match was postponed amid bemused spectators looking on.

Bhavnani, who had a ringside view of the proceedings from that day, says, “The game was publicised, so I think it was very unique to people watching. Same here, the information was all the same, it was just a different deal. I haven't experienced stopping of gameplay. So just from a unique standpoint, that's what I remember about that day.”

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With NBA teams returning to training, Bhavnani claims the priority at Thunder is following the guidelines of the league to maintain safety and well being of everyone involved.

He concedes this is an unusual circumstance for his team, placed fifth in the Western Conference, in trying to pick up from where it left off over two months back. “You don't have your hands on them but we have training staff and we send out films and workouts. I'm sure they're on most of the other teams but you know it's a different dynamic for sure, but you can just do what you can control and send out the information,” he said.

On what will be the new normal for the NBA going forward, Bhavnani said, “I'm not sure. I just know that protocols are there right now and we follow them until we're told otherwise. I do know there's more video conferencing, there's more communication, which is a great thing. The more the communication, I think the better your relationships are. I would hope that would stick for a long time.”

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