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Northeastern alumni play integral role in Warriors’ run to NBA Finals

Northeastern alumni Keke Lyles, BHS’11, and Michael Roncarati, BHS’11, will have two of the best seats in the house for Game 1 of the NBA Finals: right on the Golden State Warriors’ bench.

As members of the Warriors’ performance staff, Lyles, an assistant coach and director of performance, and Roncarati, the strength and conditioning coach, have played integral roles in the Warriors’ run to their first NBA Finals appearance since 1975. The seven-game series begins Thursday night in Oakland, California, with the Warriors hosting the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Lyles and Roncarati are no strangers to working with basketball teams, as both worked with the Northeastern men’s and women’s basketball programs while they earned their doctoral degrees in physical therapy. Lyles also attended Northeastern as an undergraduate and received a bachelor’s in rehabilitation science.

“Northeastern provided us with an educational experience at an institution with a great history, rigorous curriculum, and ample opportunity for great experiential learning,” Roncarati said. “Without those work experiences and the relationships they fostered, we wouldn’t be here today.”

Here, Lyles and Roncarati hold forth on what it’s been like to be part of the Warriors’ historic run and how they’ve prepared the players for the grind of the NBA season.

What has this ride to the Finals been like?

Lyles: It has been an incredible experience, which has been the product of hard work, discipline, and the team’s coming together for one goal. There have been many remarkable memories from this season, but I believe participating in the Finals and taking care of business there will be my favorite part.

What makes this Golden State Warriors team so special?

Roncarati: There are no egos. Every player and staff member provides something unique that adds to the overall team chemistry and helps us get through the arduous season.

What kind of workout program did you institute at the beginning of the season, hoping that it would benefit the players now?

Lyles: Early in the season we made a strong effort to build their absolute strength and their aerobic systems. We felt in order to make a long run into the playoffs we were going to need to build our guys up to meet the rigors of a long season.

How, as the season progressed, did you alter the players’ workout program?

Roncarati: In general, we reduce the volume, intensity, and frequency. Our exercise selection also shifts toward a higher percentage of exercises that increase the stabilization demands of our intrinsic foot, pelvic, and scapular musculature.

What was your experience at Northeastern like?

Lyles: It was an incredible time in my life and the foundation of who I am today.  One of my greatest mentors and now colleague, Art Horne, who is still the director of sports performance at Northeastern, had a unique vision on what sports medicine and performance should look like.

What from your experiences at Northeastern have you carried with you through your professional career?

Lyles: It set the bar at a very high level for standards of care. It also taught me the importance of continuing to develop as a professional.

Roncarati: The ability for us to embark on our journey as strength coaches and physical therapists began when we started working with Campus Recreation and the athletic department at Northeastern. We would be remiss if we didn’t mention Art Horne and Kristen Miller, associate director of fitness, for being important figures early in our careers.

Northeastern’s sports performance program emphasizes collaboration between athletic trainers and the strength and conditioning team. Do you follow this practice with the Warriors?

Lyles: Yes, we try to. At the end of the day we have to make sure we are doing all that we can to provide for our athletes, and they know they are being taking care of. There has to be a seamless transition with medical treatment and strength and conditioning.

Roncarati: Absolutely. Player health is an interdisciplinary, multifaceted, integrative, and cooperative effort. You will fail if this is not the case.

Were you able to keep track of the Huskies’ run to March Madness?

Lyles: Absolutely! Mike and I both kept close tabs on the Huskies throughout the year. We were of course super excited and proud of our guys and the season that they had.

Roncarati: To say we were proud of our alma mater and the success of the team this year would be an understatement. The day of the tournament game, we sported Northeastern T-shirts during our practice and watched the game in the weight room. We would have loved a win, but it was a valiant effort.

What does one have to do in order to shoot as well as Warriors leader and league MVP Stephen Curry?  

Lyles: Be Steph Curry. In all seriousness, he is such a unique talent and one of the greatest players in the world. But just like the rest of us, he spends countless hours working on his craft. So I would encourage everyone to put the time and energy into whatever they are doing.

Roncarati: Pregame PB&J sandwiches and band exercises. Just kidding. In all seriousness, a lot of innate talent, countless hours of work, confidence, and a great outlook on life.

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