Posted: Monday January 22, 2007 12:01PM; Updated: Monday January 22, 2007 5:53PM
Gary Vitti had to put in overtime to get former Lakers center Shaquille O'Neal taped up for a game.
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images
SI.com: On the TV replay, you were shown reaching for protective gloves, then stopping.
Vitti: By putting on gloves, I would have been giving my players a mixed message. I'd told them there was no danger. Yet here I'd be putting on gloves when the injury was only a scratch. The point of wearing gloves was not to protect me and other players from Magic, but to keep him from getting an infection. In the end, I used a cotton swab and a bandage.
SI.com: So you were trying to eliminate the players' fear factor?
Vitti: Fear can be greater than understanding.
SI.com: What do you fear most?
Vitti: Obviously, losing a loved one. The first time I ever experienced real, genuine fear was when my daughter Rachel drove alone for the first time. Right now my parents are 85 years old. I fear getting that terrible phone call some day. And -- this is very remote -- but I'm about to get married again. I swore I never would. I have a fear of being a two-time loser.
SI.com: What's the most overrated virtue?
SI.com: What kind of people do you despise?
Vitti: People who force weaker people into submission.
SI.com: Baseball has outlawed steroids and amphetamines. Would either of those drugs enhance a player's performance in the NBA?
Vitti: Not at all. The biggest high I see is from caffeine. Some supplements are loaded with it. Caffeine gives a player a heightened feeling of what's going on around him. But if you take enough of it, there's a downside. Caffeine can be a laxative, so you're running to the bathroom, and it's diuretic, so it can dehydrate you. It can also make you very irritable. Some research suggests that caffeine enhances the metabolism of free fatty acids. But I don't see it as a supplement that would enhance performance.
SI.com: What substances would actually help an NBA player?
Vitti: Well, protein and carbohydrate supplements. For guys we want to get bigger and stronger, creatine. But you don't want to put Shaq on creatine; you want to get his weight down. And substances like glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate -- both of which are found naturally in the body -- for players with joint problems. But that's a hit and miss thing. You start players on it, and if it makes them feel better, you continue it. If not, you take them off. And, of course, antioxidants.
SI.com: Of all the ankles you've taped, whose took the longest?
Vitti: Shaq's. His usually took twice as long as anyone else's.
SI.com: What's your best Jack Nicholson story?
Vitti: I was called down to the training room once to work on somebody -- I was never told who it was. I entered the room and all I saw was the back of the training chair and a spiral of cigarette smoke. Slowly, the chair swiveled around until I came face-to-face with Jack, grinning his best demonic Shining grin.
SI.com: As a longtime benchwarmer, what would you change about the NBA?
Vitti: The game has too many whistles and too many timeouts. The timeouts are too long and stop the flow of the game. In the World Cup, you see 90 minutes of soccer in two hours. You can set your watch by it. To watch a 48-minute NBA game, you really have to be willing to sit down and give up three hours of your time. It's silly.