Radnor – Two months ago, Sports Illustrated published an online profile of Ben Falk, who recently became the Barrack Hebrew Academy boys’ basketball head coach.
“Ben Falk is a lot of things: a Hinkie disciple, a 29-year-old basketball savant, an observant Orthodox Jew and the creator of one of the best basketball sites on the Internet,” read the introduction. “Is he content being the smartest man outside the NBA?”
Falk, who worked for the Portland Trail Blazers as basketball analytics manager from 2010 to 2014, then served as Vice President of Basketball Strategy under Sam Hinkie with 76ers from 2014-2016, is looking forward to his new challenge at the Radnor school.
“I’ve told some of my former NBA colleagues that this might be the best high school coaching job to have,” said Falk. “You’ve got a bunch of kids who want to learn, and there’s no college recruiting and no pressure to ‘win or get run out of town.’”
Falk had served as a volunteer assistant coach to Barrack Hebrew boys’ basketball head coach Jeremy Treatman a couple of years ago before devoting his full-time attention to developing his NBA web site, www.CleaningTheGlass.com, which includes thousands of subscribers, including NBA front office personal and basketball coaches at all levels.
Treatman suggested that Barrack Hebrew hire Falk as the Cougars’ boys basketball head coach, with Treatman serving as assistant coach.
“Ben has great ideas about implementing strategies and drills into practice, to go along with advanced professional film study that I would like to see incorporated in our team activities this year,” said Treatman. “I think he is terrific and the kids like him and he will make us better while first and foremost help foster a great experience for the kids. He made his mark in the NBA and he will do the same at Barrack.”
Falk grew up in Potomac, Md. with dual passions for numbers and basketball. He did not play basketball for his high school team – after trying out for the varsity as a senior at Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School, Falk was told by his coach that he was good enough for the team, but only as one of the last players on the bench.
This did not cool his passion for basketball, an affection so strong that, as a ninth-grade student Falk designed, programmed and launched his own fantasy basketball game, building in rewards for defense and teamwork.
“When I was growing up, my favorite NBA player was Steve Blake,” said Falk. “I wanted to play like him, and want my teams to play like him: smart, tough, and team-first. Steve was actually on the Blazers when I first started with the team, so it was great that I got to root for him when I worked for a team as well.”
As a freshman at the University of Maryland in 2006, Falk worked as a volunteer for Dean Oliver, then the director of quantitative analysis for the Nuggets. Falk’s duties involved charting defensive plays; Oliver was impressed and recommended Falk when the Blazers called him asking about potential analytics hires.
Upon graduation from the University of Maryland with a degree in economics, Falk joined the Blazers full time, as their basketball analytics manager, building internal scouting databases, managing statistics PhDs, and presenting research and suggestions to head coach Terry Stotts.
Four years later, Hinkie hired Falk as Vice President of Basketball Strategy.
“My most memorable experience during my time with the Sixers would probably be winning the lottery for Ben Simmons,” said Falk. “We felt pretty good at that point that we had the two foundational stars we were looking for.”
Falk, who lives in Philadelphia, is well-acquainted with the Philly sports fan.
“The passion of Sixers fans is incredible,” said Falk. “When I first came to Philly I talked with lifelong Philadelphia fans and they told me: wait until you see this city rooting for a good team. It’s like nothing else. And they’re right. I’m glad I get to see it now with the Sixers, but we saw it through the entire rebuild as fans stuck with us and were even enthusiastic about the plan we were following.”
A few months after Hinkie left the 76ers in 2016, Falk also departed the Sixers and began to work on www.CleaningTheGlass.com, which is billed as, “Working towards a clearer view of basketball decisions.”
A subscriber to www.CleaningTheGlass.com gets access to exclusive articles that are based on film breakdowns, evaluations of team transactions and scouting reports; an advanced statistics site with player and team profiles, in-depth game stats, and other tools; and a discussion forum with Falk and other subscribers.
Asked what has been the most surprising thing he has learned about basketball strategy through his analytic studies, Falk responded, “I’m not sure there’s one thing that’s most surprising. Really, it’s about a method of thinking about basketball and learning about the game through evidence rather than received wisdom. So there are many things about the game that have changed due to studying that evidence. One of the biggest ones has been the value of three point shots relative to mid-range jumpers.”
Barrack Hebrew Academy athletic director Justin Cooper said, “What I know Ben and Jeremy will bring to the table is the fact that they will take a vested interest in the growth of each team member. They will recognize individual worth and encourage personal and team goals. They will help develop not only basketball skills but life skills that build resilience. I am truly excited and proud to have them running our program.”
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