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Jazz video coordinator unsung hero

There's a lot more to the job than working a VCR

Published: Monday, July 6 2015 5:40 a.m. MDT

At the Zions Bank Basketball Center recently, Jefferson Sweeney, video coordinator for the Utah Jazz, talks about his responsibilities. (Brian Nicholson, Deseret Morning News) At the Zions Bank Basketball Center recently, Jefferson Sweeney, video coordinator for the Utah Jazz, talks about his responsibilities. (Brian Nicholson, Deseret Morning News)
Jefferson Sweeney isn't a musician or an actor, but a number of Jazz coaches and players carry his DVDs around with them, at home and on the road, and everybody on the team uses his recorded material.
Sweeney is the Jazz's video coordinator, VJ Jazzy Jefferson, responsible annually for taping, dissecting, editing and dubbing images from some 1,000 college games, 1,000 to 1,100 NBA games, 50 to 60 European games and some NBDL games.
His control room at the Jazz's Zion's Bank Basketball Center practice facility is filled with VCRs and digital recording materials.
The DVDs he produces are used for team and individual game preparations and for scouting and keeping an eye on players all over the world who might be of interest to the Jazz as opponents, free agents, trade possibilities or draftees.
Jazz video coordinator Jefferson Sweeney stands in front of the library of games he has helped record. (Brian Nicholson, Deseret Morning News) Jazz video coordinator Jefferson Sweeney stands in front of the library of games he has helped record. (Brian Nicholson, Deseret Morning News)
Jazz coaches need recent bits of information on coming opponents' tendencies, out-of-bounds plays, pick-and-rolls, back-door moves, alley-oops, defenses and the like.
Sweeney breaks those things down into clips on a tape or DVD for assistant coaches Ty Corbin and Scott Layden to view. They further winnow it into a finished product, if they have time, or tell Sweeney what they want, and he'll make the director's cut.
Also, Deron Williams, Memo Okur, Devin Brown and Milt Palacio want recent DVD clips of every coming opponent. Kris Humphries and Jarron Collins are also regulars. "It's just each individual, how they like to prepare," Sweeney says.
"Where it gets a little bit dicey," Sweeney says, is preparing all those materials for a trip like the five-game Eastern swing the Jazz just finished, providing coaches and players with up-to-date material before they leave. "You want to make sure they've got everything they need for the entire trip."
There's a definite method to Sweeney's madness. (Brian Nicholson, Deseret Morning News) There's a definite method to Sweeney's madness. (Brian Nicholson, Deseret Morning News)
The work can be complicated by a situation like the one in Houston. Yao Ming had toe surgery Dec. 19 and is said to be out for "several weeks." Sometimes those estimates prove wrong, and Sweeney worried last week that Yao might be available to play against the Jazz in Houston tomorrow night. Sweeney needed recent video of the Rockets with and without Yao.
Sweeney records and breaks down 20 to 25 games a day. He pores through DirecTV scheduling and makes a list of everything available and then figures out how to get each game programmed into his arsenal of VCRs.
"You get a little numbering system down. You get a big sheet of paper, jot down every single game, channel and time, decide which VCRs you have available and start going down the list. You check them off and program each VCR one by one," he says.
Then all he has to do is break them all down into useful information and have that information at his fingertips, catalogued and ready and stored for years.
"With the equipment we have it makes it easier. Before, we were doing tape-to-tape. Now we have a laptop editor, it's digital. It doesn't necessarily save you time — you end up working even more — but it allows you to do so many more things. As a result we're able to use more games.
"I am an organized person. I admit it," says Sweeney, 35, who can be seen on the Jazz bench at home games charting deflections and turnovers and writing down the times of critical plays that the coaching staff might want to look at again on tape later.
"He spends hours on hours trying to get that stuff, trying to help us do our jobs," said Jazz coach Jerry Sloan.
"It's countless and thankless hours of working to help us," said Layden. "He's organized, dedicated, passionate about helping us.
"A game is only two hours, but his work — and Smitty's too — is after games, on the weekends, in the morning. He's a hard-working guy."
"Smitty" is Richard Smith, now the Jazz's director of scouting services/player development.
Smith was the Jazz's video coordinator six years ago, also working with the WNBA Utah Starzz, when Sweeney, who was interning at KJZZ TV, making video highlights of Jazz and Ute games, approached him about helping out.
At KJZZ, Sweeney did late-night taping and editing. He had access there to NBA media guides for reading material and found the biographies on NBA video coordinators interesting, prompting his inquiry to Smith.
"He showed me the ropes and has been great guiding me along," said Sweeney, who started prior to training camp in 2000 with the Starzz and learned "how to get ready for a season, how to request tapes from other teams and decide which games to use for scouting and draft preparation."
He got the Jazz job when Smith moved up, and someday Sweeney would like to break into basketball coaching or scouting — a bit of a strange brew for one born and reared in Hamilton, Ontario, who played just one season of junior varsity prep basketball. The Toronto Raptors weren't yet around, and Sweeney was a football player.
As he prepared for an LDS Church mission to Riverside, Calif., his family was moved to Salt Lake City, which became his post-mission home. He attended Weber State, hoping to play football, then spent three years at Utah, a mass communications major.
His father worked at the Delta Center, and Jefferson took a part-time security job there. Eventually, it was tough to get the right classes to finish at the U., and he wanted to play college football. He transferred to Mesa College in Grand Junction, Colo., where he walked on as a receiver. While at Mesa, he got the KJZZ internship and spent that time "just making the transition finding out what a video coordinator was," he says.
"I wanted to get involved in sports but didn't know what avenue. Each step of the way, whatever would make sense, I'd follow that path. The path led to the right thing."


E-mail: lham@desnews.com

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