Updated: Aug 29, 2019
A montage of this years Portsmouth Invitational Tournament, the N.B.A. Elite Combine, the N.B.A. G League Combine, the N.B.A. Draft Combine, and the N.B.A. Junior Combine in Chicago.
“MAD Goes BAM” is the first article in a series titled “On the Shoulders of Giants.” The series will explore the field of strength and conditioning, its origins, its development, where it is now, and what its future promises. Much of this narrative will be told through the lens of one of the first families of the profession, the Brungardts. The Brungardt Brothers, Mike, Brett, and Kurt have co-authored five books on the subject of strength and fitness. Mike and Brett Brungardt have each enjoyed successful careers as strength and conditioning coaches, and each has profoundly influenced the profession.
Mike became the first strength and conditioning coach in the N.B.A., a position he held with the San Antonio Spurs for 17 years. After successfully serving as the strength and conditioning coach for the University of Washington’s Men’s and Women’s Basketball Programs and for the N.B.A.’s Dallas Mavericks, Brett started up his own company, Basic Athletic Measurement, B.A.M., and he revolutionized sports creating the modern combine. Our “On the Shoulders of Giants” series about the strength and conditioning profession begins here with “MAD Goes B.A.M.!” an article which discusses monitoring, and testing, and the modern combine.
MAD Goes B.A.M.!
Repeatedly throughout his career as a strength and conditioning coach, Brett Brungardt has been frustrated by the inconsistencies he encountered in the assessments of athletes’ performances. Due to a lack of standardization and to human error, athletes’ performance assessment numbers were often unreliable. In his zeal to remedy what he perceived as his industry’s glaring weakness, in 2008, Brungardt founded the company Basic Athletic Measurement, or B.A.M. He collaborated with Fusion Technology using their high-speed electronic equipment and a standardized assessment protocol to create an extremely accurate and reliable testing system, essentially what has become the modern combine.
In its quest to remain on the cutting edge, the N.B.A. saw the value of B.A.M.’s new system, and the league jumped at the opportunity to work with Brungardt’s fledgling company and its new technology. B.A.M. has been the sole administrator of N.B.A. combines since 2009. A friend and colleague of Brungardt, MAD Director John Murray has been assisting B.A.M. to administer their N.B.A. combines from the very beginning.
MAD’s Director remembers the early years when the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament and the N.B.A. Draft Combine were the only two N.B.A. combines. This year, in addition to helping B.A.M. conduct N.B.A. Junior Combines around the U.S. throughout the year, Murray, MAD Head Coach Eric Bringas, and MAD Strength and Conditioning Coach Ryan Muñoz, all worked the P.I.T. in Portsmouth, VA, and in Chicago they worked the N.B.A. G League Combine, the N.B.A. Elite Combine, the N.B.A. Draft Combine, and the N.B.A. Junior Combine.
According to Coach Bringas who has been working N.B.A. Combines since 2013, MAD’s coaches run at least a dozen of these types of combines throughout the year, and they could probably run them in their sleep. However, Bringas says that the experience at the N.B.A. Combines is amazing because you’re in a gym with a collection of the best athletic talent in the world, and the atmosphere is electric.
Bringas likens the combine to the S.A.T., L.S.A.T., or G.M.A.T. for the N.B.A. Except, at the combine, it would be the B.A.M.C.A.T. He says everybody knows how much is at stake. “These athletes know this is basically a job interview, and they all bring their “A” games. It’s our job to stay locked in and ensure that the process runs smoothly in order to give each athlete the best opportunity to succeed.”
Although Coach Muñoz has coached at countless combines, these were his first experiences in Portsmouth and Chicago working with players on the threshold of the N.B.A. Like every combine, MAD’s coaches are focused on the athletes and on the smooth execution of each drill, but Muñoz admits that it is difficult not to be wowed by these athletes’ exceptional abilities. “We train athletes for a living so I think we have a special appreciation for their level of performance and for their exceptional athleticism.”
Muñoz points out that in addition to being coaches, MAD’s coaches are also fans of the various sports. He confesses that there are moments between drills where you catch yourself thinking, “Hey, that’s Tacko Fall!” or “Whoa, that’s Quinndary Weatherspoon!” According to Coach Muñoz, one of the perks of the job is after the N.B.A. Draft, when the coaches see that players like Weatherspoon, and Justin James, and Terrance Mann were drafted, there is a certain satisfaction in knowing that MAD’s coaches helped run the combine for those players.
It appears as if B.A.M.’s high tech combine is here to stay. Over the past decade, since B.A.M.’s inception, it has gradually increased its role in the N.B.A. becoming a seasonal fixture in the league’s annual schedule. Additionally, B.A.M. now administers combines at high schools and universities throughout the year monitoring and assessing athletes in a variety of sports. Recently, the N.C.A.A. contracted with B.A.M. in order to avail itself of the company’s cutting edge, combine services.
Although B.A.M.’s combine is most widely known for its use at high profile events such as the N.B.A. Draft Combine, the P.I.T., and Eurocamp, Brett Brungardt is passionate about making B.A.M.’s technology available to young athletes across the country. In between the more widely publicized events, B.A.M.’s C.E.O., like a Johnny Appleseed of combines, traverses the U.S. with his Fusion technology making B.A.M.’s combine available to high school and middle school athletes all over the country. As an educator and a coach, Brungardt believes that B.A.M.’s new combine technology, and particularly its accompanying software and database, will help young athletes develop the essential skill of setting, pursuing, and achieving goals. By accessing B.A.M.’s database online, student-athletes will not only be able to track their own progress but also they will have the ability to compare their performances with athletes in similar demographics.
MAD Coach Ryan Muñoz considers the combine as an invaluable tool for monitoring athletes’ progress over stretches of time such as the season and off-season. In June, MAD coaches just conducted combines for Saint Ignatius College Prep’s football and basketball teams, and MAD’s staff will administer the combines again prior to each team’s respective season in order for the players and coaches to view the athletes’ off-season progress. MAD’s Head Coach Eric Bringas believes the combine has diagnostic value as well, and he points out that unlike standardized, academic assessment tests such as the S.A.T. where teaching to the test has little general educational benefit, there is a direct correlation between training to improve one’s combine scores and enhancing one’s overall athletic performance.
MAD’s director concurs with his coaches’ assessment of the utility of B.A.M.’s revolutionary combine, and that is why it has become a staple in MAD’s strength and conditioning regimen. He and B.A.M.’s C.E.O. are both inveterate adherents to the tenet “That which can be measured can be improved.” Although Murray has encountered some pushback against the combine as chiefly serving the interests of large sports programs and elite athletes, he understands how people who are not on the front lines of the strength and conditioning profession could form this misperception, but he sees his colleague’s dream of bringing B.A.M.’s innovative combine technology to the masses as already becoming a reality. “As long as B.A.M.’s modern combine so effectively serves the essential function of accurately assessing athletic performance and effectively and efficiently communicating its results, it has a bright future not only in strength and conditioning but also in the wider social arena of health and fitness.”