That’s good to have a guy who’s around your age with the same mindset, same grind and mentality because he understands what we’re going through. —Jazz rookie Donovan Mitchell on Jasper Bibbs
TORONTO — When the clock struck midnight on May 29, 2014, Jasper Bibbs was already on the road from Lansing, Michigan to Toronto, Canada in a 2002 SUV.
Bibbs didn’t have much.
A dollar, a dream and an opportunity.
That’s all he could think about during that five-hour excursion to volunteer with Toronto Raptors strength and conditioning coach Jon Lee, during which he slept in his car overnight to commit to the task at hand.
“I didn’t have money for a hotel or much, so I just found somewhere and slept,” Bibbs said, smiling. “I got to the facility early enough to jump in the shower.”
Bibbs got another volunteering opportunity with the hometown Detroit Pistons before settling into his current role as assistant strength and conditioning coach for the Utah Jazz.
As fate would have it, Bibbs will celebrate his 30th birthday in the place where he got his start as the Jazz face the Raptors on Friday at Air Canada Centre.
It’s hard for the Western Michigan University graduate to get big-headed with such humble beginnings. Although his days of sleeping in cars have now passed in Salt Lake City, he remains committed to helping athletes become better functional movers.
“God put me here on this earth to help others,” Bibbs said.
In the offseason, Bibbs was promoted from hourly sports science assistant to full-time assistant strength and conditioning coach who now travels. Utah also revamped its practice facility and performance team with Mike Elliott fulfilling a newly created role as vice president of performance health care.
Eric Waters (head athletic trainer); Nixon Dorvilien (assistant athletic trainer); Mark McKown (director of sports science/assistant coach); Isaiah Wright (head strength and conditioning coach); and Doug Birrell (team massage therapist) are other key members within the basketball operations team.
Credit this team for helping the Jazz push through an injury-plagued season, where eight guys have missed multiple games at some point, including center Rudy Gobert with two knee injuries.
With Bibbs being so close in age to some of the players, that makes it easier to bridge the gap from the training room to the weight room and helping improve player performance. On any day that could go from stretching guys, driving guys to appointments, assisting with pregame routines and making sure Elliott’s principles are coming to life.
“He works hard,” Jazz rookie Donovan Mitchell said of Bibbs. “There are times when I come in late and he’s in there just working out so that’s good to have a guy who’s around your age with the same mindset, same grind and mentality because he understands what we’re going through.”
He also pushes Jazz coach Quin Snyder to keep his slim physique, too.
“Just his enthusiasm, really for all our coaching staff, and Jasper’s a guy who has embraced that,” Snyder said. “He’s in charge of keeping me in shape, too, which isn’t easy. I skip too many of my workouts.”
Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey and the front office are meticulous in hiring high character guys like Bibbs to fulfill key positions behind the scenes. Bibbs’ path from Lansing to Salt Lake City wasn’t easy, but that relentless drive to make players better on his end is also reflective in the players as they’re able to bounce back from injuries.
These are positions that average fans don’t see.
“I feel like if you have an intent and you’re driven, being able to put forth 110 percent effort into everything you’re doing, you’re going to get great results,” Bibbs said. “That’s what I'm trying to do here every day. Stay focused on the task at hand and continue to learn and help the organization as much as I can.”