When Tim DiFrancesco '06 received the news from the Los Angeles Lakers that he was on the radar for the head strength and conditioning coach for one of the most dominant franchises in sports history, he was stunned.
“It was absolutely surreal,” says DiFrancesco, who earned his doctor of physical therapy (PT) degree in 2006. “Just getting a chance to work in the NBA period is a huge honor, but the Lakers are different. When your team is expected to compete and win a title every year, it is a really fun environment to be in.”
Before landing his dream job with the Lakers last fall, DiFrancesco worked as the head athletic trainer for the Bakersfield Jam, an NBA minor league team. Before that, he co-founded TD Athletes Edge, LLC in Swampscott, helping athletes and clients of all levels achieve their maximum performance through training.
DiFrancesco stresses that it was the PT degree that made him stand out from other candidates for the job with the Lakers.
“My boss, Gary Vitti, who is head athletic trainer for the Lakers, told me that my physical therapy degree caught his eye and put me on his radar,” he says.
DiFrancesco had earned a bachelor’s degree in science and athletic training in 2003 at Endicott College where he was a four-year member of the men’s basketball team. In addition to athletic and sports performance training, professional organizations often look for people with physical therapy backgrounds for a variety of positions on their sports medicine staffs. There is a movement within the profession that requires physical therapists to be able to morph into a strength coach and vice versa, according to DiFrancesco.
When he was at UMass Lowell, DiFrancesco could tell that he would be able to use what he was learning in the in the real world.
“The professors were always helping me look closely at what evidence-based practices could be brought to the trenches. This is so valuable and I'm not certain that all PT programs do this.”
Director of PT clinical education Keith Hallbourg says that when he heard that DiFrancesco landed the job with the Lakers, he was delighted, but not surprised.
“Tim has worked tirelessly since graduation, with his private training company and his work in the NBA’s Developmental League. He put himself in a prime position to take advantage of an opportunity like this. He consistently demonstrated the interpersonal skills and professionalism needed to be successful in the physical therapy profession, regardless of the niche.”
“Getting my PT degree wasn’t easy but it was the best thing I ever did,” says DiFrancesco. “It has opened more doors in my career than I could have imagined. If I had not earned my doctorate I would have regretted it for my entire career, and would not be where I am now.”