Back in Action
New Waves women’s basketball coach Ryan Weisenberg owns five NBA championship rings—an achievement that even some of the greatest basketball players can’t claim.
He is also just one of a small handful of people to win both an NBA and WNBA championship in the same year.
But you wouldn’t have seen Weisenberg in a jersey on the court during his time as the assistant video coordinator and advance scout for the Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Sparks, and Houston Comets. Weisenberg’s expertise was seen and felt in the players’ confident strides and swift abilities to defend against the opposition; strategic insight that led the nation’s top scoring basketball teams to victory.
From 1999 to 2007 Weisenberg was responsible for analyzing every single aspect of every single practice and game, from breaking down player and coach tendencies, to studying and diagramming plays.
“Going into the playoffs in 1999 we would give every player about 20 VHS tapes, and 10 of them would feature specific plays with different adjustments the teams made,” explains Weisenberg. “Then, there would be another 10 videos featuring the top-10 players they were going to play and going to have to defend. Those videos would have their favorite shots, their go-to move; basically, we gave our players a good visual of who they were going to defend that night.”
What Weisenberg contributed to the team’s success paled in comparison to what he gleaned from being part of the action.
“I learned so much seeing a team fight back,” he remembers. “Watching [former Lakers coach] Phil Jackson guide the team and seeing Kobe Bryant’s work ethic on and off the court—it really put me in a different level. It’s not just a job, it’s a lifestyle.”
Weisenberg’s presence wasn’t always kept behind the scenes. He began his athletic career at a young age, lettering in basketball, football, and baseball at St. Francis High School in La Cañada Flintridge, California. Within his first week on the court at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, Weisenberg broke his jaw and was required to take a break from playing basketball. For many athletes, a traumatic injury means the end of a career. For Weisenberg, it was just the beginning.
With an uncertain future looming, he stepped out of one uniform and into another as coach of the eighth grade girl’s basketball team at Mission College Preparatory High School.
They were undefeated and went three rounds in the playoffs, only to lose in the semifinals. “I caught the bug,” says Weisenberg, who remembers watching Los Angeles Lakers games and diagramming plays with his father, “a great baseball coach,” in his youth. “The broken jaw was the door opening for me to get into coaching.”
Prior to joining the Waves staff in 2012 as an assistant coach, Weisenberg spent three seasons with the Manawatu Jets, a New Zealand-based professional team, serving as both the head coach and the director of basketball operations. In his final season, the Jets finished third in the New Zealand National Basketball League and made a Final Four appearance in the playoffs.
“Basketball is not as highly regarded in New Zealand as it is in the U.S., so it gave me a big opportunity to jump in and kickstart the team, impart my knowledge of basketball to them, and help develop a couple of coaches that are still coaching the team that I left,” says Weisenberg. “The Jets went from being one of the worst in the league to the best and making playoffs in three years.”
At Pepperdine Weisenberg is only the sixth head coach in the 38-year history of women’s basketball at the University, continuing a legacy that boasts nine postseason appearances in the last 15 seasons and annual participation in the West Coast Conference.
As part of the staff last year, he admits to having learned from the “motherly caring” brought to the team by former coach Julie Rousseau (MA ’12). “It taught me quite a bit about working with players in different ways,” says the coach who is best known for his high energy and high intensity demeanor on the court.
His simple, ultimate goal: to see his players graduate and win championships. “I want to put the women’s team where it needs to be: one of the top programs on the West Coast,” he says. “The women’s basketball program is really going to explode and be great,” he says. “I’m just lucky enough to be a part of it.”