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The Harvard-Westlake Chronicle

The Student News Site of Harvard-Westlake School

The Harvard-Westlake Chronicle

The Student News Site of Harvard-Westlake School

The Harvard-Westlake Chronicle

Alumni speak on strategy in professional sports

Ethan Levitt ’07 and Sam Usher ’08 spoke to the school community on strategy-making in professional baseball and basketball leagues. Printed with permission of Sam de Castro Abeger ’07.

The Harvard-Westlake Student Alumni Association (HWSAA) organized a panel consisting of the Director of Baseball Strategy for the Los Angeles (LA) Dodgers Ethan Levitt ’07 and the Director of Basketball Strategy for the LA Lakers Sam Usher ’08 in Ahmanson Lecture Hall on Feb. 27. Levitt and Usher, in conversation with Head of Athletic Terry Barnum, spoke on sports strategy, recruiting and athletic operations. The conversation, which followed a question-and-answer format, started with questions posed by Barnum.

Levitt is entering his 10th year with the Dodgers, progressing from an intern for the organization to his current position. He supports the Major League Baseball (MLB) coaching staff and executive leadership team with player analysis and potential trade and free agent target.”

Usher is now in his eighth season with the LA Lakers. He manages the basketball department’s strategic planning, day-to-day functions and athletic recruitment. Most notably, Usher oversought the team’s trades for LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

Levitt said the Dodgers aim to hire management that is open to long-term contracts.

“The Dodgers have put a lot of emphasis on trying to create a sustainable culture and hire people that are going to be around for a long time,” Levitt said. “A lot of the coaches have been around for a long time. There’s an element of knowing that [with] whatever you’re working on, you’re going to be around to see it pay off for it.”

Levitt said his job with the team largely involves both pre-game baseball play-making strategy and post-game analysis of successful plays.

“During the season, we provide all these analytics to the coaches and to the players that they use in the game,” Levitt said. “If you’re watching the game, and you see a guy check a note card in his pocket or in his hat, that’s information that we gave them. We come up with the ideas of what information should be on the page and how should be presented, and we give that to the coaches, and we talk about it with them before the game.”

Like Levitt, Usher’s role for the Lakers is to analyze player ability and create strategy for the team. Usher said the National Basketball Association (NBA) draft focuses on the projection of player statistics rather than current metrics.

“You either take like a high school senior who’s been destroying everybody, or you’re gonna take a freshman in college, who is 19 playing against older kids,” Usher said. “[Their] stats are probably not great. They’re probably inefficient. [There is] a lot of is projecting.”

HWSAA co-leader Ellie Whang ’24 said HWSAA selected Levitt and Usher to speak on the panel because of their prominent roles in attractive fields to the school community.

“I think like [this theme] goes for every event that we have,” Whang said. “We try to choose speakers that would cater to the interests of the Harvard-Westlake community, specifically the students. I think it enticed people that these two alumni in particular work for pretty high-profile teams in Los Angeles and a lot of people are big fans. We also just know that our school is very invested in sports, so that’s an area that we would like to have speaker events in.”

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