An Interview with Former NBA Video Coordinator Mo Dahkil of The Jump Ball
Mo Dahkil is one of those guys who knows basketball.
Mo worked in the video departments for the Clippers and Spurs, helping coaches, players, and other personnel prep for upcoming opponents.
I first became familiar with Mo’s work when he was a guest on Sam Amick and Jeff Zillget’s NBA A-Z podcast. Check out that episode here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/nba-a-to-z-with-sam-amick-and-jeff-zillgitt/id972191863?mt=2&i=1000411033392
I reached out to Mo via Twitter. We had never spoken before, which makes his response and willingness to chat even more generous.
Mo agreed to let me interview him. Our interview follows and has been lightly edited for clarity.
Can you talk for a bit about how you first started in video/scouting work? How did your career progress from there, and how did you get to where you are today?
Mo: I got my start working as a basketball manager for at Santa Monica City College, then a stop at UC-Irvine before transferring to USC. That's really where my basketball career starts, and my advice to anyone in college who is interested working in sports is: find a job in the athletic department–doesn’t matter what sport–but the connections you make there will help you get to where you want to go. It is through my manager days I met Neil Olshey, who at the time was working with the Clippers and working out players in the offseason. During my senior year of college, I returned to SMCC as an assistant coach, and eventually, Neil offered me an internship with the Clippers video room. I had no experience in video editing but the most important thing is finding people with a basketball IQ, they taught me how to edit.
No one starts out wanting to work in the video room, it is a very tough job...takes a lot of time and work. But it is also the best. It is the mailroom in the NBA, you watch so much film you can’t help but pick up things you never saw. It is through my VC days I have my eye for hoops, and it has carried me this far.
Every day must be different, but what is the typical day in the life of an NBA video coordinator?
Mo: The truth is, not really. There are a few types of days: game days, travel days, practice days, and off days. Most days consist of a coaches meeting, pre-practice workouts, a film session, practice or walk-through, post-practice workouts or shooting, and if it is a game day, a game later that evening. Sometimes teams practice and then fly out for a road trip. There are several variations but they are generally the same set. Of course, schedules can change. There is always a special project that needs some attention. The video room is always working on preparing for our upcoming games so the days tend to just roll into the next one. FYI, there are very few off days for the video room, you’re always working on something.
How does an NBA video coordinator help individual players with their game/prepping for opponents?
Mo: Each player prepares in different ways, some guys are not huge film guys, which is perfectly fine, some guys want to watch their minutes from their last game, some guys want breakdowns on our upcoming opponents, how do they defend pick-and-rolls, etc. As a video coordinator, it is important to know who wants what and having it ready for them when they come in.
Any players you especially loved or didn’t care to work with?
Mo: I was always really lucky with the players I got to work with. I’ve seen so many greats. Elton Brand from my first days as an intern, to Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker with the Spurs and of course Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan were all great when I went back to the Clippers. There are always other guys you just love, Chris Quinn, Steve Novak, Matt Bonner, Tiago Splitter, Grant Hill, Jamal Crawford, and Chauncey Billups are always are high on my list as all-time guys. This also doesn’t include my time in Australia with the national team, love all of those guys too.
Do you have any notable player interaction stories?
Mo: There are just too many, I won’t ever forget my one-on-one games with Jamal Crawford after practices. Just a lot of fun to talk some trash the few times I was able to get a stop. He is so skilled with the ball.
What did you find was the most difficult to prepare players for? Certain offenses, certain players, coaches?
Mo: The hardest thing was whenever we played a team that just made a big trade. It becomes a challenge because you don’t have much film on how they are going to use their new player, and it makes it a challenge in that regard. You’d prefer to have some game film on him with the new squad. Of course, the hunt for play calls is never-ending and can be exhausting. You always want your guys prepared and with the best information but sometimes you can’t do anything about it. If a coach decides to tweak a play or put in a new set before you play them, that’s just tough luck.
The NBA has gone to an era of extreme spacing, and there hasn’t been much of an antidote. What do you see as the best counter to extreme spacing and outside shooting?
Mo: It is really amazing how much the game has changed over the past 10-15 years. I think teams are going to have to really work on trying to take away the three ball attempts away and, let’s be honest, it is very hard to do. No one has truly come up with the right answer, and if I did I’d be making a lot of money.
After watching thousands of hours of film, are there players that still amaze you?
Mo: All the time. I don’t understand people who think the game is worse now, we have so much amazing talent, the fact that there is a debate that someone could be better than Jordan (I’m not going there) is amazing–that concept was unheard of after he retired. Just the talent level in the league is amazing, from LeBron to Durant, Steph, Westbrook, Harden, (there are a lot of names to list) to young guys like Giannis, AD, Embiid, the list goes on, and on. We really could be heading into a golden age of NBA level talent.
What young players grab your attention?
Mo: I’m very interested in seeing how the 2nd year guys look next season especially Jayson Tatum, Ben Simmons, and Donovan Mitchell. As far as rookies, I’m excited to see Doncic and just how the other rookies shake out.
Other than spacing and increased outside shooting, what are some other trends in playing style the average viewer may miss?
Mo: Two things I think we’ll see more of this season, I think we’ll see more teams create offense out of the post, use it more as a playmaking position instead of just trying to score outright from there. The other thing I think we’ll see more of is teams crashing the glass when other teams go small. I think there is a real opportunity to take advantage of teams in those scenarios.
Okay, prediction time. Who’s gonna be in the Western Conference Finals, Eastern Conference Finals, and then the Finals? Who wins it all?
Mo: I’m going to cheat here, barring injury I think Golden State makes it to the WCF, I’m not sure who they’ll face but I can see either Houston, Oklahoma City, and even Utah on the other side of the bracket. I think the East is going to be any combination of Boston, Toronto, and Philly. Not giving you a finals prediction.
Tell us about The Jump Ball, your work, and what you’ve got coming up. How can people keep track of what you’re up to?
Mo: There is a lot going on, obviously a getting ready for the new season, there are articles, podcasts, and videos. The easiest way to find me and keep track of what I’m doing is through Twitter and Instagram, @MoDakhil_NBA
Keep track of what Mo is up to. Follow Mo on Twitter and Instagram @MoDahkil_NBA, and head over to The Jump Ball. Start by reading this stellar look at how Dennis Schoeder can (or maybe can't) fit in OKC.