Gary Vitti, the Los Angeles Lakers’ head trainer for some three decades, reports that next season will be his last (the 61-year-old will then transition into a consultant position for a couple of years.)

Vitti, who joined the team in 1984, says he informed Kobe Bryant this summer that he’ll be playing at the small forward spot due to the emergence of the Lakers’ young guards.

The Black Mamba, soon to turn 37, is ready for the new role.

Per the LA Times:

He’s been part of 12 trips to the NBA Finals, eight of them successful, and the players he took care of were as legendary as the franchise itself: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, James Worthy, Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant among the many. […] When Vitti started with the Lakers in 1984, he was only slightly older than most players. “Now I’m old enough to be their fathers and some, I guess, even their grandfathers,” he said.

 

So much has happened the last few years, so little of it positive. Vitti even called it “a nightmare.” Few would disagree, the Lakers continually losing Bryant and Steve Nash to injury, along with a slew of games. […] “When somebody gets hurt, I blame myself. That’s the Laker way — you’ve got a problem, you go in the bathroom, you look in the mirror, you start with that person,” Vitti said. “The one that really affected me and maybe even affected this decision [to retire] was Julius Randle. All of his doctors and his surgeon are saying that nothing was missed, but the guy goes out there and breaks his leg the first game [last season]. That one really bothered me.”

 

Vitti is often an emissary between players and management. He recently met up with Bryant, with whom he shares a longtime bond. “He was asking about our young kids, and I said, ‘You cannot believe how quick and athletic Jordan Clarkson is. He looks fantastic,'” Vitti said. “I said I personally thought D’Angelo Russell is going to be a star. He makes hard things look easy when he has the ball in his hands. […] “Then Kobe said to me, ‘Well, then who’s going to play [small forward]?’ I looked at him and I said, ‘You.’ And with absolute, 100% confidence, he said, ‘I can do that.'”